I found Padgett Powell’s Scarliotti and the Sinkhole to be highly unique and the perfect mixture of humor and sobriety. The third person limited point of view contributes to a sense of sympathy for Scarliotti while adding humor and depth to Scarliotti’s exploits. The characterization in the story is solid and is revealed mostly through the thoughts and feelings of Scarliotti himself. Additionally, the story’s fragmented yet optimistic tone effectively contrasts with Scarliotti’s bleak situation. I found myself intrigued by the complexity of Scarliotti and the sincerity of his futile efforts to better himself.
Powell’s choice of a limited point of view greatly enhances the story. The reader is basically reading Scarliotti’s twisted thoughts, making for a humorous and unique experience. Scarliotti views the world much differently than most people; we learn that he has made a deliberate attempt to better himself by eating free grits rather than pay for them. The run-on-laden tone of the story makes the reader believe in Scarliotti even further. The reader is inclined to believe that some aspects of his perspective on life are a result of brain damage from the accident on his moped (which he has named Tomos and no longer functions) and some are inherent. Whatever the case, I felt myself sympathizing with Scarliotti and his wish to transcend his situation.
Scarliotti’s character is developed almost exclusively by his thoughts and feelings, but it is supplemented by his unconventional actions. His thoughts tell us that he is convinced that there is a sinkhole under his trailer, waiting to swallow him up. Although most people would be disturbed by this notion, Scarliotti looks forward to it as a way to finally achieve transcendence. The fact that he sees his situation this way – a sinkhole, but a benevolent one – tells the reader that although he is continually optimistic about himself, he knows deep down that his life is sinking. He also drinks constantly and refuses to take his pills, further demonstrating his despair. The other characters in the story are static; they serve mostly to emphasize Scarliotti’s plight. He is genuinely ignorant of the fact that the girl at the convenience store mocks him openly, and she only sleeps with him because she feels sorry for him. His nurse treats him like a child, and his father treats him like a bum. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the story.