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Passive Reflection

Throughout much of Deborah Eisenberg’s “Twilight of the Superheroes,” one of the main characters, Nathaniel, is working on a superhero of his own. Nathaniel’s superhero “Passivityman” has an unconventional choice of superpowers and seems to be more or less a reflection of Nathaniel than anything supernatural.

Passivityman and Nathaniel share similar attitudes toward their lives and the world. “Passivityman is taking a snooze, his standard response to stress” (22). Nathaniel also seems to be going through life in a daze or snooze in the beginning of the story when he finds himself comfortably stuck in the mid-west and working “As a part-time assistant with an actual architectural firm” (19). When Amity convinces Nathaniel to come to New York, a part of Nathaniel is still dreaming.

Nathaniel’s ignorance to what is happening in the world around him is brought to light by Dephine. “Do you know what they’re saying about you over there?” (31) Delphine asks Nathaniel referring to how the rest of the world views America’s actions. Feeling vulnerable, as if someone has found  his kryptonite, Nathaniel merely responds with, “Please don’t say ‘you,’ Delphine” (31).

This scene between Delphine and Nathaniel is also reflected in a scene from Passivityman earlier in the story. When Passivityman’s girlfriend finally partially wakes Passivityman she becomes frustrated, “Don’t you get it?” (22) she says. The girlfriend then goes on to tell Passivityman everything that has happened since he shut his eyes to the world. “The U.s Congress is selected by pharmaceutical companies, the state of Israel is run by Christian fundamentalists” (22) rants Princess Prudence. “Well gosh, Pru sure–but, like, what am I supposed to do about it?” (22) replies Passivityman.

Later Nathaniel’s friends confront him, concerned about Passivityman and seemingly equally concerned for Nathaniel as well. Nathaniel tells his friends perhaps, “He’s sort of losing his superpowers” (23), but Amity reassures him, “Oh, it’s probably just one of those slumps” (24).

The reader soon finds out Nathaniel is feeling just as lost as Passivityman. “Twenty-eight years old, no superhero, a job that just might lead down to a career in underground architecture…Maybe he should view Mr. Matsumoto’s return as an opportunity, and regroup” (30).

I believe that in writing Passivityman Nathaniel underwent some catharsis and it allowed him to reflect upon his life. This not only let him understand himself better; it also made him become more aware of how other people thought of him and his purpose in life, which at times made him more asleep to the world than awake.

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