David Garnett’s 1922 novel, reprinted by McSweeney’s, Lady into Fox is the tale of a one Mr. Tebrick, who, upon out walking with his wife one day, finds to his surprise, that she has transformed into an animal, a fox. From this, we follow Mr. Tebrick as he struggles to preserve (keep) the humanity of his wife, in spite of her beastly transformation. At first, he insists on her being clothed, eating cooked meat and holds on to the “human” image of her. Sadly, day-by-day, his image of her changes as her personality gradually slips away. She becomes more and more “animal-like” with each passing day.
Through this touchingly dark novel, we see Mr. Tebrick, himself, losing touch will other people and with his former life. His love for his wife, even in “fox” form, is deep and enduring, although, perhaps harmful to himself. Nonetheless, in this act of clinging to her – in her animality – he loses touch with the social world, with the world of other people. Does he do this for love or out of sheer confusion?
In his struggling acceptance of her as she struggles to break free of his controlling grip, he becomes obsessed with her, fearing for her life amidst the elements. He is not willing to fully accept her as being a “fox.” Finally, and without giving away much of the story, we find him living his life through her, unable to give up his love or hope, unwilling to wholly accept this strange transformation that has so altered his life.
Through the frame of this story, I think about the idea of love and change. Sometimes the one we love, changes, or we ourselves greatly change. When this change occurs, do we accept the other person in their newness or do we see them through the past image that we have of them? What do we give up in trying to cling to a love that has fallen out of our hands? Sometimes, perhaps, the line between love and obsession becomes blurred when we try to form the loved one to fit our image of how we think that they should be. Or, is it more worthy to love and continue loving despite a great change in appearance or personality? What would you do if the one that you loved suddenly, and without warning, transformed before your very eyes into a wholly different form? How would you approach and live through that love?