The character of the Messiah King, Joshua or J is introduced in Keret’s wistful novella towards the end of the story. That however, does not undermine the social significance that the Messiah King has in the story and the larger social context. Like most of the characters in the Novella, the Messiah King keeps on searching for something more extravagant and meaningful than what the world of the living on earth and world of the dead suicides offer. This paper seeks to analyze the character of the Messiah King as portrayed in the novella. It seeks to further draw parallels between the Messiah’s behavior with the general society’s quest and expectation of a perfect world. It also analyzes the nature of his followers and what they represent. The paper is an exploration of the theme of disappointment as presented by Keret.
The key role the Messiah King plays is apparent on the onset when the reader is introduced to him. He makes a shocking and elaborate entrance into the fore of the story. When Jan appears at Kneller’s place all worked up about having found Freddie, Kneller’s dog, we get introduced to the Messiah King. Jan explains that the Messiah King was “holding Kneller’s dog hostage” (Keret 120). Readers get curious about the nature of this Messiah King. First, he has the name of that resonates with today’s society especially the Christian tradition. This Messiah is however, introduced as a hostage taker rather than the Messiah King society is used to who is argued to be in the business of freeing individuals from their sins and their bad life. The fact that the Messiah King or Joshua is holding a dog hostage makes him come out as a bizarre figure far from the Messiah a reader expects to see or know about. Second, the Christian Messiah was crucified. This Messiah is a suicide who lives in the world where suicides go after they die. This paints a different picture of a Messiah, a Messiah who is in a different kind of business other than saving lives. Parallels can be drawn between Joshua and individuals in society like celebrities who are seen and portrayed as larger than life. Despite their follies that include drug abuse, society still follows them and still believes that they have something to offer.
There is a lot to decipher from the Messiah’s living environment. He lives in a big mansion with a swimming pool which is often occupied by a multitude of people that follow him and spend the day in his swimming pool and eat his good food. Later when Mordy sees the Messiah King’s house he is shocked at how big it was, he notes that “the Messiah King’s place was humungous, like all those cool houses that Desiree used to show me when we’d go visit her rich relatives in Caesarea” (Keret 124). The more details we get to know about the Messiah the more he gets to be different from the Messiah of the Bible. The Messiah King “like techno” and he is from Galilee. There are parallels between Jesus and Joshua only in terms of their place of origin- Galilee. Joshua in this instance represents a world that is more close to ours than the afterlife of the bible or the suicide world. Even though miracles are unbound in the afterlife of the suicides, he still reminds one of individuals in society who are obsessed with their status. Despite the fact that miracles happen everywhere, the Messiah King decides that he was going to have a “planned miracle” (Keret 121). This quest is a vain quest. His behavior mirror society’s obsession with the extraordinary, the never ending search for something more meaningful than what is presented and provided. A miracle is not enough. He needs a planned miracle. As readers we are aware of the fact that disappointment constitutes the world of the suicides and the world inhabited by mankind. The Messiah King is not satisfied by the fact that he has followers, he has a mansion and he lives close to the beach on top of that he has beautiful women around him. He is always seeking to prove something.
In the Messiah, the standards of beauty are laid out. He is described as “a blue eyed blond guy with long hair and had his girlfriend who was a little lopsided but pretty anyway” (Keret 121). Here society’s pre-occupation with superficial looks is shown. Besides the looks which Keret had to spell out there is the girl who is pretty. Later, the Messiah King manages to take the next pretty girl in Desiree, Mordy’s reason for committing suicide. The Messiah like most of the people of the suicide afterlife world is always seeking. He quickly moves from one pretty girl to another without an end to the search. The nature of the Messiah King is best described by Mordy when he notes that “Lihi didn’t exactly buy into the whole Messiah King thing” (Keret 122). Lihi and Kneller are aware that the Messiah is only trying to show off and not capable of performing any miracles.
The Messiah can also be said to be in the business of false hope. People in this suicide world are miserable. It is not what they expected. Mordy did not even believe that there was another world he was going to after he dies. The Messiah with his miracle tries to sell the same kind of hope that these people could not find on earth. Amazing enough people showed up to witness the miracle. This shows human nature. People are always wishing and praying for a different world from the one they inhabit. The Messiah King tries the same trick to separate his body from his soul and fails. He ends up in the suicides’ world.
One person calls the Messiah out for being a fraud and that is Lihi. Lihi asked the Messiah King how he would come back to the world of the living and the Messiah King gave an arrogant and ignorant response. He told her that “it was a waste of time and that he would show everyone the way to a better life” (Keret 127). Lihi is able to discern that the Messiah King is a bullshit artist. Even before her observation, the reader is aware of the chances that J could be a bullshit artist. In his conversation with Desiree, a glimpse into the nature of the Messiah King can be made. He is the reason that Desiree commits suicide because he fails his experiment of leaving the world of the living he was trapped in. He believed that there was a better world and Desiree is one of his followers who follow him blindly, despite the fact that all his miracles and attempts of breaking into that better world fails. Desiree’s ludicrous explanation that she could hear the Messiah King calling her from another would is more amusing than sad.
The scene of the J’s death is vividly portrayed with imagery that shows confusion and well as disappointment. The Messiah King’s followers are as deluded as him. Their faith in the fact that he is capable of moving in to a different better world is a manifestation of their delusion. In Desiree, the followers’ hopelessness is depicted. Her faith in the Messiah is misplaced. At the hospital after the Messiah King died, “she could feel him calling her wherever he was, which is when she took the elevator up the roof and jumped, so they could be together” (Keret 126). Joshua was going to do it again and she believed him. He did it again but like the first time he dies again. This time he goes to a world much worse than the one of the suicides he was in. The other followers are in the background, there little that Keret tells us about them other than the fact that they followed him unquestionably.
Mordy is not exactly a follower like the other folks at the Messiah King’s mansion but he just blindly followers what he believes to be the love of his life, Desiree. When they finally meet Desiree like he feared has found another guy. They have a civil conversation but Mordy then is thinking of pursuing a different kind of happiness in Lihi who in the end disappears in the van. This does not necessarily dent his hopes of meeting her again. In all these developments, society’s preoccupation with a perfect form of happiness is apparent. Mordy, the Messiah, Lihi and even the angel Kneller are searching. Kneller is on a quest to find friend his dog. In these characters and the Messiah King’s followers there is a constant pursuit of something beyond what is given. Keret tries to say that this search is futile. Instead of sticking with Lihi when he had the chance, the Mordy goes ahead in search of the obvious which is disappointment. When he realizes that what he was searching for was under his nose it is too late because Lihi has disappeared.
The ending of the novella pits Mordy showing that hope again. He first acknowledges that Uzi might be right, “maybe he is right, and I don’t stand much of a chance. But on the other hand, she told me once that someone who was half dead was good enough for her, and when she got into that van she signaled to me that she’d be right back” (130).
In conclusion, the Messiah King represents humanity’s preoccupation with crafting and finding a perfect world and this endeavor often ends in disappointment. Society is full of hope but that hope does not get to fruition. In the Messiah King, the reader is able to see society’s vanity and how that vanity leads to never ending searches for a better world. The result is always the same. The suicides are taking into a different world but they take their suicide wounds with them. There is no reprieve or rest. They are faced with the same kind of predicament in the suicide world like the one they ran ways from them. They devise new ways of escape. Mordy seeks to find Desiree and makes the search for Desiree his scapegoat for going on an adventure because he is bored. Uzi does find a girlfriend but it does not translate to any kind of full happiness. The Messiah is the character that goes to the extreme in his quest to escape the present. His belongings are not enough, he wants more, he needs more. Instead of getting it he gets another painful wound which takes him to another suicide afterlife where life is more miserable than the last place.
Keret, Etgar. Kneller’s Happy Campers. London: Chaton and Windus, 2009.