Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume Essay

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Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume

In his 1984 novel Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins presents a narrative that rivals the often fantastical tales told in myth. Using classical mythology as a foundation, and, in particular, providing a loose adaptation of The Odyssey by Homer, Robbins updates and modifies characters and concepts in an effort to reinforce the importance of the journey of life and the discovery of self. Like the ancient myth-makers, Robbins commands the reader’s attention with outrageous situations and events while at the same time providing characters that the reader can relate to and learn from.

Jitterbug Perfume is a story of epic proportions, spanning a time-frame of almost one thousand years. The protagonist,
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Furthermore, the beet as "the grounded moon-boat" calls to mind Odysseus's various nautical incidents and accidents (1). This discourse is chapter one of four brief chapters that introduce the modern-day characters, much as Homer begins his epic with the four books that acquaint us with the people and the situation in Ithica. Each work is told retrospectively by a third-person omniscient narrator, and the adventures of Alobar and Kudra are relayed primarily through flashbacks, much as the story of Odysseus is told. Homer's use of Athena as a character whose presence permeates and drives the action of the epic is mirrored, albeit perversely, by Robbins' use of the beet as a similar "character," an entity that permeates and affects the lives of the characters in the book. The novel, as does the epic, ends with all the primary characters coming together to effect a satisfying conclusion.

A key to understanding his writing, says author Tom Robbins, is a knowledge of Greek myth. A particular influence on him is the life and work of Joseph Campbell, author of several books on mythology (Hoyser and Stookey 9). Campbell, in turn, owes influence to the insights of analytic psychologist Carl Jung. Jung recognized the patterns within myths --- throughout the world and across all cultures -- of characters, situations, and events, and identified these recurring images as archetypes (Harris and Platzner 40). Campbell

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