A Jungian Analysis of How Like a God
Isaac Asimov was certainly correct when he stated that the writer of a story doesn't necessarily know everything about it. The author, Brenda W. Clough, claims not to have had an acquaintance with Carl Jung's work when writing How Like a God. However, the architecture of the book is strikingly Jungian.
In the beginning of the novel, the main character, Rob has very little interest in his appearance. Many computer people are like that, and he has his devoted wife Julianne to make all the sartorial decisions for him. He looks like a desk warrior, pale, uninteresting, and out of shape. He wears neutral colors, beige and brown, to symbolize his undifferentiated state. In second part of the novel, under the intolerable agony of losing his family, Rob's cold dark side emerges and quickly takes over. The new regime is inaugurated by unnatural and life-denying behavior: not eating, not drinking, not sleeping, but sinking down into the dark on a park bench. Rob's appearance alters as he takes to wearing rags and a dark blue toggle coat. He loses weight because he forgets to eat. Even his sexuality is warped. When he faces up to what's going on he immediately tries to change by getting a haircut. At the hairdresser he notices music for the first time in the book. He also notices he's blonder. He now has a light, and a dark, side.
In part three of the novel, under Edwin's beneficent influence, Rob cultivates his better inclinations and inadvertently worsens a one-sidedness. He forces the tramp, now stigmatized as a frightening monster, down into the sub-basement of himself -- the trap-door of which, however, has no lock. Edwin is the natural ally of Rob's good, lighter side, affirming it and guiding it to greater strength. He plies Rob with music and food, gets him a place to stay, and helps him to start coping with his problems. He even takes Rob to his favorite outdoor supply store for a complete set of new clothing in Edwin's own L.L. Bean mode. Rob comments there that he'll never be cold again.
But Rob's darker side has a powerful ally too -- old Gilgamesh in his cave, another lurker in the dark. In the sub-basement face-off (which takes place in Atlantic City, a notoriously tacky place) the tramp hints at this. Rob at that point is unable to deal with his dark side, and he runs away. Like the tramp, Gilgamesh's hallmarks are unhealthy ones: seizures, solitude, cold and starvation. When Rob confronts Gilgamesh in Kazakhstan he realizes that this is why Gilgamesh chose him -- because Rob has the potential to grown into just as much of a psycho as Gilgamesh himself. It is the tramp and Gilgamesh who are brothers, equal and exactly alike in selfishness. Rob now has to choose his future self-hood: the light or the dark. He's either going to become...