In Timothy Findley’s Not Wanted on The Voyage Noah’s wife asks ” what else could heaven be … but a world afloat … nothing hard or real to fall against or stumble over; everything distant, everything benign,” (pg 18) but at the end of the novel the Ark is hell where the innocent are shut in perpetual darkness and are devoid of God. Not Wanted on The Voyage chronicles a time in which “the order of things has become unhinged,” (pg 24) where those who seem devout are corrupted and those who seem evil are actually pure.
This is a place where appearances are deceiving and questions are seen as a challenge to authority instead of a quest for truth. This is a place where nothing is without contradictions. Noah’s last name, Noyes, is a contradiction within itself and exemplifies the war of yes and no, the war of good and evil that escalates throughout the novel until it reaches the final breaking point. In an existence so convoluted, a fallen angel becomes a beacon of hope and salvation in an otherwise dark journey.
This angel is Lucifer. Unlike most rouges, who tended to be hotheads an malcontents and very often dangerous – this creature … was smiling, soft spoken and beautiful. ” (pg 59) Naturally this rouge angel chose the form of a woman in direct opposition to a misogynist society and a God who has ” no women and no female angels” (pg 72) in his retinue and relegates them to being subservient to men. In doing so, Lucy (as she likes to be called) becomes a champion of all those oppressed. She joins the race of men “in order to prevent the holocaust on earth” (pg 110) instead of abandoning it to the flood.
In her desire for “difference” she searches for an world where “darkness and light are reconciled,” (pg 284) fully knowing that one cannot exist without the other. Lucifer, as the unlikely heroine, challenges all of our preexisting notions of hell when she states that the depths are as “cozy as a fireplace” (pg 218), and thus a place of comfort and safety. The shunned demons are like innocent children who squeal with delight when they catch snowflakes on their tongue and are eager to help Lucy, Ham, and Mrs. Noyes.
We find “the only demon … is Doctor Noyes,” (pg 42) who relegates the demons to death because he sees them as a threat, just as he sees the frolicking sea dwellers as “creatures of hell … spewed from Satan’s mouth. ” (pg 236) They too are murdered for mistakenly believing they could be a friend of man. Noah’s actions make it painfully clear where the true evil resides especially when they are done in the name of his God. Lucy is forever “opposed to Doctor Noyes – … opposed to his methods and his tactics and his … evil ways. (pg 279)
She throws her lot in with the humans to live with them and face death with them, while Noah’s God leaves “His friends to rot – alone. ” (pg 350) This is a world where appearances are deceiving, where all that seems good is evil and all that is evil is good. Further playing on the fair is foul theme, those who seem the most pure are, in reality, the most corrupt. Hannah, ” ‘going about her business,’ just as she been told the only treasure in the trove” (pg 15) of Noah. To Yahweh she encompasses all that is “intended in the gesture of Creation. Purity of heart and motive.
Devotion and subservience to the greater glory. ” (pg 88) She alone is the only woman allowed in the apple orchard, a place where “only women with the highest dispensations allowed to walk. ” (pg 139) Yet, Hannah’s purity is a ploy in which she uses her sexuality as a bargaining tool in order to reach her goals in a male dominated world. She “has no rivals in court” (pg 72) of Yahweh and seizes upon this with a vengeance. She makes herself a fawning handmaiden to Yahweh in order to secure her position in his good graces and to elevate herself above the other women.
On the ark, Hannah is “the only passenger who thinks about survival clinically: who reasons through the whole long process of staying alive at any cost: whose perseverance is calculated from moment to moment. ” (pg 267) Her psyche is devoid of everything except her own ambition which has eaten away at and deteriorated any other characteristics she may have had. Only too late does she realize “that she has traded too much of her self for what she had thought would be security and esteem. ” (pg 287, 288) Hannah becomes pregnant.
Her elevation, and Mrs. Noyes’ demotion in terms of the favor of Noah is a mystery to his wife but to Hannah’s husband Shem “Noah’s attentions to Hannah had by no means gone unnoticed. ” (pg 244) Unfortunately, Shem is a man who doesn’t hold the bond of marriage over that of a dutiful son and thus is silent. Hannah pays the ultimate price when she gives birth to a deformed stillborn. The death of the child “in which she had invested all her ambition and all her secret love” was “of course … her responsibility alone. (pg 340)
Noah deems himself faultless in the whole tragedy even though this was not the first time he had fathered a deformed child. Fortunately, this time the child was already dead before he could murder it just as he murdered Japeth’s twin brother and Japeth’s sister-in-law, Lotte. Hannah is isolated by the height of her position on the ark’s hierarchy and has no one to call for for help, no one to console her, and no one to forgive her and so as a result remains forever out of the reach of redemption.
To Noah, things are never intrinsically fair nor foul, but only what he will make of them to serve his purpose. Noah alters reality in order to justify his own whims as his sense of self value is forever tied to being right. He fails to find truth because he cannot accept being wrong and thus he shapes his own perceptions around what will make him feel more comfortable. “Noah would never accept the argument that every gesture did not come from God,” (pg 311) because he wants to justify his own action as having a Divine Purpose.
By every sign and signal decisions are confirmed,” (pg 13) – even something as insignificant as the sight of a peacock becomes a sign of “the eye of God,” (pg 10) which demands a blood sacrifice. Anything that Noah himself cannot understand or achieve – such as alchemy- becomes, to him, a miracle, although the only true miracles are performed by Lucifer in the brief resurrection of the Unicorn from the dead.
Noah sees the world as his adversary and rejoices that the rest of humanity “would drown – and with them, their opinions. (pg 116) For Noah there is no truth except what he himself formulates, thus, “there anything he didn’t claim to know about. ” (pg 21) In his pride he takes the title of “Most Reverend Doctor as it … only proper for one who was becoming a god. ” (pg 211) He assumes the status of a supreme being who alone may “commune with God,” while all others “must listen and obey. ” (pg 212) He glories in the fact that this will further relegate his family to being his slaves in order for them to remain faithful to their religion.
With his monopoly on the Word of God Noah may corrupt it however he wishes without any opposition except that of a “silent God who refuses to materialize. ” (pg 241) The killing of one of Yahweh’s favorite beasts, the unicorn, is transformed by Noah into a “ritual death” (pg 271) to placate Yahweh “wherever he might be. ” (pg 271) Noah believes that ” a holy purpose must be manufactured for its death” (pg 271) in order to absolve him from any and all guilt.
With every action he convinces himself that he is: “blameless and – more than blameless – that he and he alone saving the ntire situation by salvaging everyone and everything from certain ruin: that wrenching that began with his arm extended and his finger reaching out through the air to find the true and absolute culprit: the inevitable cause of all that was threatening, all that was dangerous; all that was foolish; all that was madness. That finger of reason that always found someone else. ” (pg 264) With this action Noah forever loses touch with any vestige of God. He boasts of a “Covenant between himself and Yahweh” (pg 351) that never exists and places an olive branch in the talons of a trained dove to signify a peace that will never be achieved.
The faithful of Yahweh are schooled in blind obedience rather than being taught to challenge and search for truth. With this they deny reality and free will. Noah fondly reminisces of a time when “the Fear of God would put women in their place again, and the young would bow before the Wrath once more,” (pg 48) but even he longs for his son, Shem, to “let out even a single word of opposition – one little no that would indicate there was someone in there, thinking. ” (pg 240)
Conversely, those who are in opposition to Noah and thus Yahweh are always questioning and are “always complaining – always saying ‘no! and succeeding – that the wonder of it all. ” (pg 20) In Heaven, “all ever said was why ” (pg 108) and it was this single word that resulted in her banishment and not, as commonly believed, her pride. This word is echoed by her husband, Ham, in his scientific inquiries and by Mrs. Noyes who “would not say ‘yes sir’ and never had. ” (pg 15) Despite that “the answers … could only be troubling and were better left unknown,” (pg 7) they always quest for truth and when they find it they risk punishment and say “NO” in order to uphold it.
These questions are the only way that they can improve themselves and develop their own moral codes and values instead of being mindless automatons without free will. It is their only form of defiance and their refusal to obey Noah and Yahweh is the only way they can remain true to the law that is written upon their hearts. To Yahweh it is “monstrous that even the wisest of the wise should attempt to usurp their God, that they should ask of God: why and how” (pg 110) Only those who knew not to reach out with their hands and who knew not to dwell upon the word were worthy of his salvation.
Only the single chosen of the Lord may hear the Word,” (pg 110) and the man chosen was Noah – thus taking the wisdom and truth of the Word away from the people and placing it within the hands of the man who would corrupt it. The building of the ark, to Noah “produced a thoroughly satisfying atmosphere of ‘no more questions asked – no more questions needed’… as if the grandeur of the ark was its whole justification. ” (pg 119) Perhaps this is also true for his own religion, and if any questions were put forth they would expose the callousness that would allow only eight people out of countless nations to survive the forthcoming flood.
Yahweh relies on his image and the ignorance of his followers instead of merciful acts to attract and hold the faithful. Perhaps Yahweh, the apparently all-powerful, has something to hide from his people and thus their questions cause him fear. Yahweh himself questions ” ‘what have we done, that man should treat us thus? ‘ Why should Yahweh ask such a question? Did it matter what He did? Was he not God? ” (pg 117) Maybe it does matter what Yahweh did because he is not God in the true sense of the word: a Supreme Being, perfect in goodness, knowledge, and power.
He may be trying to hide his own mortality. Mottyl, the cat, suspects “from His smell that He human. ” (pg 66) How could a “confused”, lozenge sucking man with “yellow streaks and bits of food and knotted tats in his beard” (pg 66) be anything but a human with all of their failures and fallibilities When he begins to weep it is apparent that “the Lord God Yahweh was having a breakdown. ” (pg 69) What would happen to the world if it is at the mercy of a man who is overwhelmed by stress and his own emotions?
Assassinated seven times, Yahweh seems unable to summon the energy to revive his spirit along with what is undoubtedly an ailing body. After being “assaulted on all sides by an onslaught of evil, vice and shame, (pg 88) and by accepting the crown of flies, “the Lord God Father of All Creation had consented to his own death. ” (pg 112) Perhaps it is for the best as it is not a loving God that must “lift One’s skirts to avoid contamination the hands of sinners that reach out to touch One and to drag One down. (pg 89)
This is a God to whom agape is a foreign and abhorrent thing. “Mercy … not his concern,” (pg 69) and the only love he is aware of is that in which he is the master of both men and angels and they are his slaves. With the words that “the will of God would triumph, no matter what the cost,” (pg 239) the God of Love, Yahweh, becomes a deception of massive proportions for a true God cares for each individual being, no matter how insignificant and would hesitate to lose a single one.
If “it was His intention to leave behind an impression of His person that would last … forever,” (pg 189) he did. “Yahweh – with his final gesture – shut them in” (pg 189) the ark and drowned the world entire as a fitting monument to mark his own passing. He and his actions stand as a mockery of a true God as they are devoid of mercy, wisdom, and strength and instead are rife with weakness, self pity, and selfishness. Not Wanted on the Voyage creates a world that is a negative photo image of all that we would wish it to be.
The reversal of good and evil in the novel compels the reader to sit back and look at their own individual world objectively. What they find may be disturbing because their questions may unveil much injustice that has been done under the guise of goodness, and they may discover that their own personal biases towards what is “evil” may be just that – a basis that is founded in ignorance, not fact. After reading the novel you learn to challenge reality in order to find the truth buried within.