The Mosquito Coast
In today’s society it is easy for one to lose ones head. With all the advanced technology, endless activities and the pressure to do as much as possible in a twenty four hour day, some of us may feel we as though we are going crazy. Perhaps maybe joke about being a mad’ man. However in Paul Theroux’s novel The Mosquito Coast’ Allie Fox was more then just a little over worked or too idealistic. Allie Fox was a Mad Man. He proves his insanity time and time again through out the novel by the way he is with his son Charlie, other members of his family, and people he meets along the way.
The first incidence in the novel, The Mosquito Coast’ that proves Allie is a mad man is when he asks his oldest son Charlie to prove his braveness to him by sitting on a rock and waiting for the freezing cold tide to come in and hit him. “The tide’s coming in, father said……..Who’s going to show me how brave he is?” page 63. No father who was mentally sane would ever put their own flesh and blood at such a risk for something so senseless.. Allie didn’t see it as a risk, but as a game.
Another time Allies madness is shown in an act towards Charlie is when they are aboard their boat, the Unicorn in the middle of a storm. While walking along the deck past the kingpost, davit and shrouds, Allie decides once again to challenge Charlie to a dangerous dare. He ordered him to climb to the top of the shrouds. “Any fool can climb a ladder, father said. But those shrouds-if you climb those, you’ll be hanging right over the water.” page 86. This is a true act of madness. With the slightest slip of his hand or an easily misplaced foot Charlie could fall and die instantly. But Allie was more than willing to risk that for a little fun.
A third time Allie risks Charlie in an act of madness is when the Fox family is living in Jeronimo and Allie makes the mistake of inviting two Guerillas to stay with them. Allie had finally achieved what he had considered his ideal world when all of a sudden his perfection was threatened by two men who wanted to take over and be in control. Instead of packing up his family and leaving his hard earned lifestyle to keep his family safe he decides to stay in Jeronimo and put an end to Guerillas by freezing the men in Fat Boy, their freezer unit.Instead of asking Mr. Haddy, his trusted friend or one of the other men to help him with his plan he puts his son at risk of being caught by the guerillas and shot. “Can you get up that ladder and shove this beam through the brackets on the hatchway door, without making a sound?…..You’d better be more certain then that, Charlie, because if you wake those bugs up they’re going to start shooting.” page 249. That is full proof of madness. When you have the opportunity to leave safely and not risk your families life but forfeit your ideal’ world then you do the sane, reasonable thing to do and you pack up and go. Allie did not.
Charlie is not the only person in the Fox family who is affected by Allies madness. The entire Fox family was in danger while the Guerillas were at Jeronimo. Not only because they were armed with guns, but because the men were attracted to the women in the family and if left alone with them could have very easily forced themselves upon them. Also, when Fat Boy set fire, had any of the family been out walking or looking for Allie and Charlie they could have been blown up with the rest of they’re possessions in Jeronimo. ” Then the explosion came. It filled the clearing with light that scorched my face. It brought color to every leaf, not green but reddish gold, and it gathered the nearby buildings-the cold store, the incubator, the root cellar-shocking them with pale floury flame and then pushing them over like paper.” page 252. Had the children been close to the flame they would have suffered sever injuries. Allie didn’t take those things into consideration while he was on his mad killing spree.
An ongoing sign of Allies madness is the fact that his family is living with such poor nutrition and living conditions. When they first arrive in Jeronimo they basically live off of bananas for weeks until their crops begin to grow and ripen. But even with the crops their food is very limited and their growing bodies are lacking important vitamins and nutrience for the children to stay healthy. During a time of drought the family lives on next to nothing because they have to save all the food they find. They dry fruits and vegetables to get the seeds so they can plant the next crop. “Jerry had taken out a tomato and was polishing it on his knee. Father ordered him to put it back…..Those are hybrids. Eat those and you’re living on our capital. When we get where we’re going, we’ll take them apart and use them for seed.” page 273. Allie wasn’t even sure of where it was they were going, but he had banned them from eating until they got there. That could take days. A sane man doesn’t believe in starvation. Especially of his family.
A third time Allie proves he is mad not only to the readers but also to his family is when they are finally free and clear from the dangers of Jeronimo and the children ask to go back to America. Allie tells his family that there was a nuclear war and America no longer exists. ” Jeronimo is nothing compared to the destruction of the United States. It wasn’t only the burning buildings and the panic. Think of the people. Remember Figgy’s curassow? The way roasting made the meat fall off the bones? That’s what happened to millions of Americans. Their flesh just slipped off their bones.” page 274. Allie truly believed what he had made up. And he wanted desperately for the rest of his family to believe him as well. His family came to realize that they may need to question their fathers sanity.
Allies insanity is also evident in the way he acts with people outside his family. For instance, at the beginning of the novel Allie goes into town to a hardware shop to purchase a coil of rubber. When he realizes that the clerk is trying to sell him a product made in Japan Allie loses control. “It’s made in Japan. I don’t want my hard earned bucks turned into foreign exchange for the sons of Nippon. I don’t want to bankroll another generation of kamikazes….” page 5. This is a very mild indication of what was yet to come in the rest of the novel.
Another time Allie proves he is mad is when he is living in Laguna Miskita. The Fox family is being torn apart by Allies insanity. He is being rude and making it hell for the others to live with him. When Mr.Haddy comes to visit them he warns them of a huge storm heading their way. He promises Allie he’ll return before then with some gas, and spark plugs for his boat incase they run into any problems. But Allie is stubborn and refuses Mr.Haddys offer and sends him away. “I bring you gas and erl next time….and a set of sparks’ said Mr. Haddy. Don’t want them.” page 294. If it wasn’t for Mr.Haddy returning secretly that night during the storm and giving the gas and sparks to Charlie, the family would have all drowned thanks to Allie.
The final proof of Allies madness comes near the end of the novel. Allie has a true hate for missionaries. When his family made him stop at the a missionary in Guampu, Allie took it upon himself to do what he thought in his weak mental state, was the best for human race and torched the missionary. Hoping to kill everyone as well as all their beliefs. “…Behind them, like the bonfire of sunrise, something blazed. High flames turned the nearby trees green and gold, and wet them with light, and gave them frantic Zambu shadows.” page 355. This was the last time Allie was a free mad man. He was killed and the world and his family was now safe from him.
As you can see by the examples given in this essay it was clear to anyone that Allie Fox was in fact a mad man. Having fun and being silly, taking risks and living on the edge are all apart of a healthy, normal life. However, you need to know the limits. If you lose sight of the safety of yourself and others and of reality in general, as Allie Fox did, who knows what you may become.