Freaks or Norms: A Rhetorical Analysis of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love In Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, the main characters are separated into two categories, the norms and the freaks. The narrative creates a world where all the freakish things are defined as normal and tells how all the characters can switch from one category to another. All these plots come out with Al’s one thought, “how the oddity of them was beautiful and how that oddity was contrived to give them value. […] He realized that children could be designed” (9). Al intentionally manages to make his children freaks. Along with the story of the Binwskis’ family, the boundaries between “norms” and “freaks” are challenged and redefined. The original transformation from norm to freak is the process of Al and Lil’s creation of “oddity “by “beginning to experiemnt with illicit and prescription drugs, insecticides, and eventually radioisotopes” (7).
They create freak Arturo, the aqua boy, Electra and Iphigenia, the beautiful conjointed twins; Olympia; and Fortunato (“Chick”), who appeared normal but was telekinetic. For Al and Lil themselves, they are not genetically or physically freaks, so they are able to give birth to normal healthy kids. However, they consciously begin to transform the kids into disabled freaks because the freakier the kids are, the more popular the show would be. These children are considered as the perfect kids in this scenario since they are actors in the carnival to fullfill the demands of the audience and bring the money in easier. This phenomenon in the carnival not only breaks the usual visual of the norms and freaks, but also secretly switches the idea of freaks and norms. Usually, the disabled kids are unwanted and abandoned.
However, Chick, the one who is most close to normal is bullied, chastised, abused and berated by the whole family, especially by Arty. In the carnival, the relatively normal kid, chick, is the freak, but all the other freak kids are the norms. In the meantime, Al and Lil also make the supposed-to-be normal family into a bizarre circus. In the circus, all their children can be concerned as success and the way they look help them to catch the audiences’ eyes and control them. In Binewski’s Fabulon, lots of norms, the audience, come to watch the freaks. The audience and the performers cross the boundaries of norms and freaks because their curiosity of seeing such a bizarre show with so many freaks make them freaks in some way.
The normal people also want to cut their limbs by cult because they believe what Arty, the freak who rules the carnival operation, said that is the way to true happiness and make them feel special. Those amputee members in the Arty’s cult are called the “Admitted”(185) and the “Blessed” with slogan is the phrase “Peace, Isolation, Purity.” Therefore, while the family who are considered as freaks actually act normally for what they are supposed to do, amusing audience by being unique, in contract, the audience who are considered as norms act strange and play the role of freaks. The notion used to distinguish normal and freak is challenged.
Another exchange idea of norms and freaks is reflected in Vern Bogner. He shoots the Binewski family when they go to the supermarket. The reason that Bogner shoots is that the Binewski family interacts as a family while his own family is unhappy and his wife dislikes him. “When he came home from work and said ‘Hi’ to his own kids, they just snorted and went on staring at the TV”(57). Bogner’s own kids don’t even repesct their own father really depresses bogner and trigger the shoots. These make Bogner’s “norm” family dysfunctional. However, the freak family functions normally while they appeared as a group. During the shoot, the Binewskis’ become norm by their action while Bogner becomes freak by his violate action. Thus, the idea of norms and freaks transformed again.