Little, Big by John Crowley

“‘Please please follow all these instructions very carefully or I don’t know what might happen.’

Which is how Smoky came to be walking not riding to Edgewood, with a wedding-suit in his pack old not new, and food made not bought; and why he had begun to look around himself for a place to spend the night, that he must beg or find but not pay for.” (Little, Big, I.i)

Smoky Barnable’s journey to Edgewood, the home of his beloved bride-to-be Daily Alice, is thus constrained by these mysterious restrictions. We have already been told that the Drinkwater family, to which Daily Alice belongs, is “very religious,” although we’re never quite sure what religion that might be. But out of love, Smoky follows the instructions carefully, so very carefully, and because of his trust of Daily Alice, he believes that the danger is real. Smokey follows instructions for reasons he doesn’t understand, so his journey of love and to his beloved is at the same time an act of faith and a kind of pilgrimage.

The restrictions carry a kind of religious significance. The wedding suit must be old not new, preparing him for the “something old” tradition of marriage. Neither the food nor the lodging can be paid for, and signifies a moving away from the world of commerce represented by the City, just as his journey to Edgewood does. To get to Edgewood, Smoky must enter a kind of poverty in which money has no value. And he can rely on himself or others for his lodging, but not on money. In a word, Smoky must rely on Providence.


About Joseph Burke

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