Patchwork Girl: The Hypertextuality of Scars...

Erica Seidel

In Shelley Jackson's "Patchwork Girl," scars are used as a metaphor to describe hypertext. In particular, scars are analogous to hypertextual links.

The monster's scars are intimate, integral, the essence of her identity. Similarly, the essence of hypertext is the linking, the private ways that the author chooses to arrange her piece, and the reader uses to meander through it.

Just as the monster finds pleasure and identity in her scars, good hypertext works are defined and distinguished by their unique linking structures.

When Shelley and the monster are together intimately, Shelley first understands the significance of the monster's scars:

"I see that your scars not only mark a cut, they also commemorate a joining."

During this sexual encounter, Shelley genuinely identifies with the scars.

"Her scars lay like living things between us, inscribing themselves in my skin. What divided her, divided me."

Just as the stitchings of skin unite Shelley and the monster, hypertext links unite author and reader.

Furthermore, Shelley sees that the scars define the monster's identity more than anything else. What is yours is not your skin, but rather the scars that join the various pieces of other's skin that cover your body randomly.

This is true also in hypertext, where, for better or for worse, the link is paramount. The flow of hypertext is the point, this "sheer pleasure of movement" that we experience as we immerse ourselves in hypertext.

The political/theoretical ramifications of scars are also addressed:

"Being seam'd with scars was both a fact of eighteenth-century life and a metaphor for dissonant interferences ruining any finely adjusted composition."

So, scars can be analogized to links, as a departure from the status quo. Scars and links break up and threaten bodies and literary works that were previously perfect and whole. Such novelty and atomization is sure to come up against dissent. Scarred bodies are met with revulsion, while innovative hypertext works confront literary criticism.

It is possible for a work, be it a constructed body like the monster's or a hypertext fiction, to have too many patches to be considered beautiful. An overly-scarred face can have too much color and variation and scarring. "Texts become babel." Babel. Babble. So an excess of scarring/linking without regard to form, beauty, and purpose, can result in a babbling chaos, an ugly patchwork.