The sounds of music filter through the lines of The City, by Dean Koontz. And, it’s not just the rhythm of the words or the pitter-patter of the symbols. There’s something quite like soul that breathes (and even seems to come alive) in the pages of this novel.
- The City (Miss. Pearl). The city is a character. She’s the fairy godmother, the savior, and the creator. She breathes life into the story (and into Jonah), but she’s also the ghostly, enigmatic thread that carries strange-and-horrible portent. There’s something of her presence–often felt, but seldom seen. She is his guide–an ethereal, Trickster-like, even all-mythos figure. But, she saves Jonah not only from his nightmares, but also from a life bereft of music.
- The Doer (Amalia). In a fairy tale, Amalia would be Cinderella, the hard-working (but under-appreciated) girl–soon-to-be whisked away by her Prince Charming to her castle on the hill. In The City, she’s the protective older sister, friend, and even a romantic focal point (puppy love); but she’s also the catalyst by which Jonah discovers art. As he explains, she “enormously expanded” his world… “threw open doors … that otherwise might have remained closed for many years or perhaps even forever.”
- The Prophet (Jonah). Like the Biblical Jonah, he’s reluctant in his mission (he’s uncertain–he repeatedly asks Miss Pearl what to do). Instead of finding himself in the belly of a whale, though, our Jonah secretly schemes to uncover the truth and protect his family. She tells him: “You have to make your own future, day by day… what happens next is up to all the people… Your part is up to you.”
- I Hear America Singing. Sounds (music) spring from the streets and the clubs–all the madness and blissful innocence. They could as well be Whitman’s song of America. But just as we seem to hear America singing, we also hear weeping. There’s a vitality and intensity in the city’s people, but all of them have experienced tragic loss.
“Birds sang in the trees,” Jonah says, “crickets chirruped in the grass, bouncy doo-wop music came from the phonograph in the house next door, three laughing children played some game on a porch across the street, and it all sounded like doomsday music to me.”
Following Jonah’s story, we see and understand the “fragility of life, the ephemeral nature of everything we seek and create in this world.” We’re all broken birds… trying to make sense of what’s happened, and then molding those sorrows (born out of tragedies) into something that resembles hope.