The God File
Hollon introduces the main characters in his book—Gabriel, Carl, and Leon—with descriptions of their weird obsessions/collections. Gabe is obsessed with his personal discovery of God; Carl, fulfilling his sexual urges; and Leon, killing and collecting flies. Gabe’s fixation on finding God is the reasoning behind the File, the idea of the book. Each chapter in the book, brings him closer to his goal of proving the existence of God, is a moment of his life as he recalls it in prison. Thus, the File is his collection of events that proved the existence of God to him. Carl is obsessed with gratifying his sexual needs. These obsessions are so intense there is a chapter, “the ancient art of masturbation,” that describes when Carl stabbed his scrotum with a fork. Additionally, this chapter also describes Carl running hot water on his poison ivy covered hands, making his eyes “roll back in his head.” Leon is referred to as “Fly Man” in the book because after a stroke, he resorts to killing, collecting, and documenting the flies he kills. He records the date, time, location, and manner of death for every fly and collects them in a wooden box. Leon is possessed by flies, every opportunity he gets in the book; he adds one to his collection.
The Color Blue
The primary color motif is the color blue. Blue is used in the chapter, dreams, as he describes a dream where a blue car kills children. It is also used in a later chapter describing his mom’s dress as they go to a circus when he is a kid. Furthermore, Gabe has many experiences with boats and water, adding to the motif of blue. The color blue is used as a motif to convey the idea of being innocent. In the dream about the car crashing into little kids, Gabe describes himself as watching the car fly by from a block away, him being in the driver seat as the car hits the children. This abrupt shift from observer to driver gives the reader the impression that he killed the children and is trying to burying his guilt for the incident. The blue car also helps the reader understand that he is mournful for his actions. Additionally, Gabe describes his mother’s dress in a chapter as being “white and light blue”; here, blue represents motherly love. Gabe’s mom is a strong woman who is abused by his drunk of a father. Therefore, the blue in “blood and the tiger” show his mother’s love and protection for him against his father. Moreover, in the chapters in which Gabe talks about boats and water, blue represents freedom. When he talks about his past experiences with boating, they convey a sense of freedom on water. His recollections of boats allow him to remember the freedom he once enjoyed. Thus, the motif of blue is primarily used as a sense of escape. Blue is used in the car dream because Gabe is trying to escape the dream and the guilt that it brings him. He wants to be free of his wrong decisions and move on. Additionally, whenever he is with his mother, Gabe is always a child and almost never an adult. This gives the reader the impression that Gabe is trying to regress to a younger age when he was free from many of life’s demands and pressures.
Sacrifice for Others
Throughout the novel, Gabriel displays his greatest flaw; his incessant need to put others before himself. As a boy, Gabe takes the fall for when the trigger-happy neighbor boy shoots Gabe’s dog. In the main plot of the novel, Gabriel confesses to the murder of his girlfriend’s husband. Although he is obviously not the culprit, he feels that it is right to protect the woman that he loves. As the result of this confession, he is locked up, forced to endure the hardships and terrors of prison for a woman who doesn’t love him back. Looking back on his actions, Gabriel remarks “God, I’d probably do it again,” a surprising statement for someone in his position. Hollon offers little insight into the mind of Gabriel and the reasoning behind his decisions. However, one important dream sums up the entire novel. Gabriel falls asleep and dreams that he is talking to God. He is offered a proposition; if he agrees to both lose a child and go to prison, his mother, brother, and best friend will be spared from these hardships. Gabriel shakes hands with God, agreeing to “carry the burden” in order to protect his loved ones.
Evidence of God
Gabriel’s main goal throughout the novel was to find evidence of god in his prison experience. Despite his not-so-spiritual surroundings, he finds his evidence in the search itself as the distraction the search provided gave him the sustenance to stay alive. The best piece of evidence for the sustaining properties of the search is in Gabriel’s “option” to commit suicide. He explains that humans have been “given a soul which separates them from all other creatures.” This soul, he explains, also gives humans the ability to feel pain worse than any physical pain in this world. He feels that if god felt that a man could not endure the pain any longer, then he would bring him home. It was the evidence of god’s mercy.
- Gabriel Black
- Janie Fitzpatrick
- Leon Evers
- Carl Anderson
- Greta Braun
Gabriel Black is the main character convicted of killing his girlfriend’s (Janie’s) husband. According to Gabriel, he purposely took the fall for Janie when she killed him. Gabriel also has a strong respect for suicide: he views it as a freedom, then a gift, and at the end he takes advantage of it by killing himself. Gabriel is on a quest to find evidence to prove the existence of God, spending most his time reading books and taking examples from everyday prison life and finding good in the most horrible examples. He starts out searching for tangible evidence or examples around the prison and in his life. However, he later realized the quest itself drew him closer to God and his newfound faith was evidence enough, finding the answer to God inward, rather than outward.
Leon Evers is a very strange and unlucky veteran who lost a leg in Vietnam, and his right pointer-finger in a factory in Milwaukee. Leon also suffered a stroke and lost most of his memory, and woke up calmly realizing he was missing body parts, and stuck in jail for the rest of his life. After his stroke Leon became obsessed with killing flies. No one knows why, but Leon soon after his stroke became obsessed with flies. Despite constant inquiries he wheels around with a fly swatter killing every fly he sees. Upon killing the fly he numbers it and records the date, time, and how it was killed (left hand or right hand). He then puts the fly into a jar filled with hundreds of other dead flies. This character adds to his mysterious and interesting persona which entertains the rest of the inmates. Most importantly, Leon is in a state of peace, every other inmate is upset for being there or can’t wait to get out; however, Leon is at peace living there for the rest of his life swatting flies. Leon is in prison because he killed his mother and another man named Clay Bolger. However, he is certain he will not go to hell because he asked God for forgiveness before he killed them, and the Lord put his hand on his shoulder and said “Leon, you’re forgiven.”
Crazy Carl Anderson may be legitimately crazy. He lives in his own made up reality; however, Gabriel is envious of Carl’s happiness. Carl unlike every other prisoner is always happy, and through his happiness emanates happiness and makes the other inmates smile and laugh. Carl symbolizes happiness since he is their source of happiness, drugs, and joy. Carl is also able to smuggle drugs into the prison: he often has marijuana and has given Gabriel LSD before. An example of Carl’s made up reality is his girlfriend outside the prison, who sent him an envelope full of pubic hair: however, it was only his own pubic hair in an envelope. Additionally, Carl would regularly wake up in the middle of the night and pee all over his bunk mate. Carl’s reasoning is not logical, but very simplistic; therefore, he doesn’t have the same fear as most people and is therefore very open minded. For example, Carl asked Gabe to smoke in the yard, Gabe was afraid to be caught; however, Carl saw it as a 50/50 chance of anyone anywhere being caught smoking. Carl said a man alone in the desert can either be caught or get away; therefore it’s 50/50 for everyone. When Carl was finally released on parole he was excited until he had to go “home” no one knew why he was so afraid of his home, but the guards had to use pepper spray and drag Carl out of the prison. Meaning Carl found a way to adapt, and eventually love the prison.
- "The God File". Retrieved 3 September 2013.