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Taj Taher

Honors 391A
5 February 2015
The Conscious Little Rock
Lets say you pick up a rock and you throw it. And in mid-flight you give that rock
consciousness and a rational mind. That little rock will think it has free will and will give you a
highly rational account of why it has decided to take the route its taking, (283). Dr. Starling
first introduces the concept of a conscious little rock when addressing free will; that is, that
human beings are under the impression that it exists when it really does not. However,
Charlottes story is one comprised entirely of free will. It is a chronicle of the choices she makes
that determines not just her fate, but increasingly the fate of those around her. When considering
the case of the conscious little rock and how it relates to Charlotte, it may be prudent to ponder
about the one throwing the rock in the first place. If there is one motif that consistently reappears
in the novel, it is the presence of manipulation. As her developing relationship with Hoyt
becomes more physical, Wolfe writes The last one had been a pretty long kiss, but at the same
time, she wanted him to want but not have more. She wanted it both ways, (366). Charlotte
is not swept off her feet by Hoyt like all the other girls he pursues and conquers. In complete
contrast, she exercises control over him (or at least, as best as she can). There isnt a sense in
their interactions that Charlotte is a puppet or a mindless automaton or a helpless rock being
flung in a certain direction at Hoyts disposal: no one orders Charlotte to spend time with Hoyt.
So why does she do it? Why does she allow herself to act in opposition to what she
knows to be morally sound? Why does she continue to associate with the Saint Rays even when
she repeatedly admits to how crude and base she finds them?
We could find multiple answers to these questions, but Charlotte Simmons would not.
This, I think, is the reason that Wolfe likens her to the conscious little rock. More important than
the fact that the rock has no say over where it flies is the fact that it will consciously delude itself
into believing that the direction it is taking is of its own volition, completely ignoring that it was
thrown. It is somewhat ironic that the conscious rock is in fact unconscious of its flights
origin. In a similar sense then, Charlotte deludes herself. There is a disconnect between what
Charlotte thinks and what Charlotte does. Right after Charlotte stops Hoyt from proceeding too
far when they are getting physical, she proceeds to judge some other girls by noting that girls
screaming the scream of excitement from being with boys and one boy shouting in a mock-

serious deep voice, which youd think was the funniest voice in the history of the world from the
way the girls were screaming, (371). Charlotte then goes on to think, however, was there some
pretext, any pretext, on which she could call him [Hoyt] without seeming to be begging? (371).
On the one hand, Charlotte judges the depravity and desperation of other girls, while on the other
she herself is just as desperate and willing to fall to such depths. But Charlotte refuses to see this,
and it is the clash between the reality of who she is and the caricature of who she perceives
herself to be (I am Charlotte Simmons!) that is characterized in the conscious little rock.

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