Inanimate objects can take on qualities of the grotesque, such as Peter Carey's monstrous glass church in Oscar and Lucinda.

"There were bush-flies in the church. They did not understand what glass was. There were also three blue-bellied dragon-flies. For one thousand years their progenitors had inhabited that valley without once encountering glass. Suddenly the air was hard where it should have been soft. Likewise the tawny hard-shelled water beetle and the hang-legged wasp. They flew against the glass in panic. They had the wrong intelligence to grasp the nature of glass. They bashed against "nothing" as if they were created only to demonstrate to Oscar Hopkins the limitations of his own understanding, his ignorance of God, and that the walls of hell itself might be made of something like this, unimaginable, contradictory, impossible" (Oscar and Lucinda, p. 418).

Carey's glass church epitomizes the dilemma of a belief system built on contradictory and misguided assumptions. Like Sufiya [in Rushdie's Shame], the church represents the "wrong miracle". The church is the distorted creation of Oscar and Lucinda, each of whom imagined its purpose differently than the other. Although supposedly for the children of God, for Oscar the glass church exists as a product of vanity. As Oscar finally admits, "[h]e thought it a conceit, a vanity, a product of the deuce's insinuations into the fancy-factory of his mind." A symbol of colonialism, the glass church represents the importation and oppression of a belief system incompatible with the colonized peoples. Remember Carey's image of all different types of bugs unable to comprehend the nature of the glass?

Glass, while totalizing in structure, is vulnerable once even slightly damaged. The church structure, however, relies on a wooden platform of "two independent entities. Thus when one lighter bobbed it would not be in step with its companion and the result of this was that the foundation of the fragile-bird cage church would shift and twist. Glass, for all its strength under compression, cannot easily tolerate this sort of twisting" (p. 431). At any moment, like other images of the grotesque, it threatens to become "crazed", to explode into shards of glass. Although made up of contradictory elements, Oscar's glass church or belief system is unwilling to admit the existence of those inconsistencies. Throughout the novel until the last chapter, Oscar's unwillingness to acknowledge his own contradictions leaves us, as readers, in a state of unresolved tension similar to the sensation we receive when reading passages of the grotesque.


Peter Carey Oscar & Lucinda