In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, the protagonist Aristotle is shown to have very limited connections to other men. Besides the boys of his own age to whom he can’t relate to in the realm of sexuality, Aristotle also has a very unclear relationship with his incarcerated brother, about whom he knows very little. But most significant to the novel is the distant relationship he has with his father. From Ari’s perspective, the relationship is marked by longing and uncertainty. One mystery about his father that is referenced over a dozen times in the first section of the novel is the secrecy Ari’s father keeps about his experience in the Vietnam war. At one point, Aristotle even obsesses over his father’s finger as it “tapped the book with approval. That finger had pulled a trigger in a war” (Saenz 35).
In contrast to their relationship, the reader also sees the very opposite father-son relationship between Ari’s eventual love interest Dante and his father. From Ari’s first introduction to Dante’s father, he notes a strong contrast between the affection levels, as Dante greets his father with a kiss on the cheek, which makes Ari feel quite uncomfortable.
Another foil presented in this novel is between the two mothers. Aristotle’s mother is very open and welcoming, while Dante’s mother by comparison is reasonably reserved. A loose parallel that could be drawn is that between the two sets of spouse, namely that Aristotle’s mother seems more similar to Dante’s father and that Aristotle’s father seems more similar to Dante’s mother. However, perhaps it is unfair to parallel Aristotle’s father’s distance with Dante’s mother’s reservation. “It was just that when Dante said that his mother was inscrutable, I knew exactly what he was saying” (Saenz 125).
Do you think as much of the narrative would deal with the distance Ari feels between himself and his father if he did not know the relationship between Dante and his father?
How significant to the narrative is the foil between the two mothers, in comparison to the foil of the two fathers?