Such as to Saunter Vaguely Downward
In the Beginning
The angel of the Eastern Gate put his wings over his head to shield himself from the first drops.
“I’m sorry,” he said politely. “What was it you were saying?”
“I said, that one went down like a lead balloon,” said the serpent.
“Oh. Yes,” said the angel, whose name was Aziraphale.
“I think it was a bit of an over-reaction, to be honest,” said the serpent. “I mean, first offence and everything. I can’t see what’s so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil, anyway.”
“It must be bad,” reasoned Aziraphale, in the slightly concerned tones of one who can’t see it either, and is worrying about it, “otherwise you wouldn’t have been involved.”
“They just said, Get up there and make some trouble,” said the serpent, whose name was Crawly although he was thinking of changing it now. Crawly, he had decided, was not him.
“Yes, but you’re a demon. I’m not sure if it’s actually possible for you to do good,” said Aziraphale. “It’s down to your basic, you know, nature. Nothing personal, you understand.” (Gaiman and Pratchett 3)
In popular culture there is a distinct difference between angels and demons, as propagated by the Church and Hollywood. For even though they’ve come from the same God, one has followed and the other has fallen.
Beginning with their physical form, angels are usually portrayed to be either totally female, male, or androgynous; take for example the angel Gabriel from the movie Constantine or the angel Amenadiel from the TV series, Lucifer. It is also a trademark for pop culture angels to have a head full of golden blond hair, blue or gray eyes, and loose white clothing. Meanwhile, demons vary from being extremely horrifying in appearance (hoofs, horns, and spinning heads), looking like debonair old men, or devilishly handsome young men; as portrayed in the movies Insidious and Ghost Rider. They are always seen to have black hair, black or red eyes, and dressed to the nines in, unsurprisingly, black clothes; stylish black clothes as opposed to their counterparts. When it comes to their personalities; angels are shown to be extremely righteous, mild – mannered, and weak to an extent, only displaying their full power when provoked. Demons on the other hand are all cocky, arrogant, and powerful from the get – go; their manner of display always being killing, maiming, or torturing some poor mortal. Angels are also shown to be free of worldly desires, meticulously clean, and organized. While demons are lavish by nature, often basking in chaos and rankness.
The difference between these two entities are as plain as black and white; night and day. Whereas angels are of celestial origins, beings of light and faith; demons are of the occult, adversaries of goodness and harbingers of decay; whereas one is ethereal, the other is hellish. It is only natural then, that people assume a natural enmity between the two; a lingering expectation that the “good” will smite the “evil”. It is firmly ingrained in their minds that the good can do no evil and vice versa. They have the defined and caged these two beings in to categories of which they must stay in, and consistently follow; anything less than adherence to the ideals of their categories would cause confusion and outrage to spark from the defining group.
Deviating from the topic of angels and demons for a while, it must be taken note of that the world has changed, somewhat, from seeing everything in black and white to allowing slivers of gray to slip in between the lines separating the two. Whereas before there were strict rules and expectations to follow on how one should be, usually dictated by one’s gender, race, or class; there is now a worldwide tolerance for the difference, or uniqueness present within every human. Especially with regards to one’s sexual orientation. Whereas before there was only male and female; man and woman; prince and princess, there are now other options one can associate oneself with. Today, one can be openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or any other form of queer one finds himself comfortable with. One now has the freedom to choose to live outside the normal categories and to not be stuck in the category his biological body has dictated he be in, but even though one has the option to live as he so chooses; there is the problem that the world has only achieved tolerance and not total acceptance.
It is not odd, most especially in this country, for a deviant to be shunned or underhandedly insulted by those who still live by the “normal” standard. It is not at all surprising for a 3rd/4th/5th gender person to be criticized outright or to be talked about behind closed doors; to be scorned by strangers or friends and family alike. It is not strange to find institutions, like the Church, say their tolerance of these abnormalities and in the same breath put the fear of hell in that person for his “sin”. Tolerance is a step forward but not a large one.
Male and female, angel and demon; real and fictional beings who are forced into conforming to society’s standard of normal. A society that is caught, as of the present, in a cha – cha of tolerance and backwardness. In this paper, I’ll be making use of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch to further define the gray area “normal” people find hard to accept exists.
Using the various ideas within the spheres of Queer theory and Reader – Response theory, I will be analyzing the characters of Aziraphale and Crowley, the two main protagonists of the novel, and their interactions. I have reason to believe that they are in a, albeit asexual, romantic relationship with each other as hinted by the novel. I have put in the beginning of this article, an example of one of the interactions I have found to be favoring my point of view.
Queer Theory in a nutshell
Queer theory was a reaction to a feminist school of thought back in the 1970’s, which stated that boys and girls had fundamental traits that defines them as one gender. This feminist notion was also borne somewhat from Freud’s concept of the phallus or the “penis envy” he assumed women experience, since they are by nature “powerless” when compared to men who are owners of such equipment; it is only during intercourse that woman are able to gain a share of this power.
Queer theory aims to question all of the notions its predecessors came up with. It intends to displace the idea of male – female categorization, implying that it is possible for either gender to have traits that belong to the other and that a person’s identity is not bound to what he or she has in between his or her legs. It says that behaving as a girl or a boy isn’t something biologically set but rather something learned by the child as he or she moves within his or her society. This theory is out to prove that normal is just a social construct and so is gender; that “androgyny” is a part of the options.
Reader – Response Theory in another nutshell
This was the theory that came after New Criticism, which emerged around the 1960’s. It intends to replace the idea that one should focus only on the text; paying no mind to author or reader. It is a school of thought that places emphasis on the importance of the reader and his interaction with the text, stating that every interpretation of a work is to an extent subjective since the reader will find bits and pieces of himself in between the lines. The reader isn’t so much as simply following the implied meaning of the text but creating it as well. Rather like Saussure’s signified and signifier, how the reader perceives the text is wholly due to his interests or experiences or other factors.
This theory also aims to push the fact that the reader must rely on his subjective reaction to the text to understand its meaning and that, even though a reader’s experience whilst reading the work is subjective; there would be others that share a similar point of view.
Discussion of nutshells; the theories and the fictional characters
Many people, meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide… (Gaiman and Pratchett 165)
“What’s this Crowley like?” said Ligur.
Hastur spat. “He’s been up here too long,” he said. “Right from the Start. Gone native, if you ask me. Drives a car with a telephone in it.” (Gaiman and Pratchett 18)
Aziraphale was the former guardian of the Eastern Gate and wielder of the flaming sword, of which was used to prevent Adam and Eve from plucking a fruit from the Tree of Life. He was also known to be of the Principality which is why he was sent down to Earth, to become a guardian of the city. His human guise is that of a middle – aged, bookshop owner; with a head full of blond hair and blue eyes as per usual. There is no solid description of Aziraphale’s physical appearance, other than those few details but it can also be assumed that he was, if not fat, a bit heavier than his demonic counterpart due to his hands being described as plump at one point of the story; as well as that they were “elegantly manicured” hands. He also has, as angels are wont to have, an inherent need to do good and save the souls of humans; to thwart the wiles of demons such as Crowley. It was also implied in the book that, unlike Crowley, he never slept nor ate nor indulged in any other human activity except to read. His home was described to be no more than a workplace, with a backroom for alcohol and more books and a kitchenette, from which only tea or cocoa came out.
Crowley, formerly known as Crawly, was the serpent who tempted Eve into eating a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. He was described in the Dramatis Personae of the novel as “An angel who did not so much as Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards” He was also the one who was tasked to take the Antichrist into the convent of Satanist nuns, wherein the babe would’ve, should’ve been given to the American Diplomat but instead, due to a mix – up, was given to a simple English couple. He was physically described in the book to have nothing particularly demonic in appearance, aside from his yellow, snake eyes; his snakeskin shoes, or as implied, feet; his tendency to hiss when he forgets himself; his ability to do weird things with his tongue; and his disinclination to blink. He was also said to have dark hair and good cheekbones. Unlike his angelic counterpart, Crowley lived in a posh and luxurious flat, and drove a 1926 Black Bentley. He was also somewhat a fan of the band Queens, although it could just be that anything that stayed in the car for very long turned into that according to the story. He was also said to be very attached to his human form, afraid to change into the serpent because he fears he might forget how to come back. As a demon, Crowley has a fondness for causing trouble and general mayhem.
The novel talks of an agreement between these two characters.
The Arrangement was very simple, so simple, in fact, that it didn’t really deserve the capital letter, which it had got for simply being inexistence for so long. It was the sort of sensible arrangement that many isolated agents, working in awkward conditions a long way from their superiors, reach with their opposite number when they realize that they have far more in common with their immediate opponents than their remote allies. It meant a tacit non-interference in certain of each other’s activities. It made certain that while neither really won, also neither really lost, and both were able to demonstrate to their masters the great strides they were making against a cunning and well-informed adversary. (Gaiman and Pratchett 23)
This entails that they’ve come to a compromise of some sort which would allow them to do their respective “jobs”; that is to wile and thwart each other but in equal measures so that no one is truly winning; enough though, that both of them yield results to report to their superiors.
The Arrangement started out as something done grudgingly but as centuries go by, these two beings find they share similarities and that they enjoy each other’s company. They have even come to the point wherein they trust each other enough to get drunk and inebriated in the presence of what should be their natural enemies; and to treat each other to a meal at the Ritz; their favorite hang – out aside from the back of Aziraphale’s bookshop.
Aziraphale refers to Crowley most of the time as “My dear” or “My boy”, while Crowley simply calls him “Angel”, even in public; at the beginning it was used as a derogatory term but later on it simply became an equivalent to Aziraphale’s dears. All of this, could then could possibly indicate three things not stated by the novel but heavily implied,
- 1. They could’ve known each other before the Fall happened
There must be a reason why Aziraphale did not smite Crowley upon seeing him in the garden or later, when they would eventually run into each other again over the course of history. A reason why the book opens up with such a gloomy rain and Aziraphale’s first words being an apology to Crowley for not being able to pay attention what he was saying. It could be that this was because he was distracted by the remembrance of the Fall of Angels that could’ve just recently happened before the Fall of Man, and that Heaven was weeping for both downfalls; or he was apologizing for not paying attention to Crowley when the other was still an angel, and was being pulled away from the Lord by his doubt. Perhaps Aziraphale was thinking that it was his fault that Crowley associated with the doubters, as the serpent admits himself; he hadn’t meant to Fall, he just hung around with the wrong people. Perhaps Crowley was referring to himself when he said “…That one went down like a lead balloon,” (3). Perhaps the reason he so fearlessly approached Aziraphale, who he knew could smite him, was because he knew the angel wouldn’t hurt him no matter what he has become. Perhaps all of these were true and that they both agreed to the Arrangement for a more complex reason than simply compromise; after all, it was said in the book that Aziraphale felt guilty about agreeing to such a thing and that if anyone of Crowley’s superior’s find out about it, he’ll be in deep trouble. The reason of compromise or simple friendship isn’t enough to continue with the Agreement if it jeopardizes their positions; Aziraphale could fall and Crowley could be punished. Hence, there must be a stronger motivation.
- 2. They’re both gay
There were instances in the novel wherein they showed themselves to be outside of gender norms, even though they were of angel stock and were therefore supposed to be sexless; they were one of the few that made an effort hence they had genders. One of said efforts was Aziraphale’s elegantly manicured hands, manicures and other body care services are usually only associated with women. There was also the matter that he had a bit of vanity in him, finding his body disappointing to a certain degree. While for Crowley it was his metrosexuality and his delight with taking care of plants, which are somewhat associated only with sexual deviants and women. They are also gay in the way that they don’t fit the bill of angel and demon respectively; in fact, using the words of Hastur, they’ve both gone native. Anomalies of Heaven and Hell, since they live like humans and that they truly do like humans more than any normal angel or demon should; Aziraphale has even learned to dance the Gavotte even though angels don’t know how to dance. It said in the book he learned it in a “discreet gentlemen’s club” and it was implied that his dancing partner then was one Anthony J. Crowley.
Another reason why they are deviants are the reversal of habits, wherein angels are supposed to be the clean and organized ones; Aziraphale is as dusty as they come and he purposefully lets his bookshop become a mess to avoid customers coming in and buying one of his precious books, which proves that he is no regular angel again since he has formed worldly attachments. It was also further proven in one part of the story that Aziraphale is not as angelic as he ought to be since he was willing to condone the killing of the Antichrist, who for all intents and purposes, was a human at that time. He also associates with a demon willingly and relies on him for nearly most of the time. Meanwhile Crowley is fastidiously organized and dislikes to do any true evil or act of malevolence. During the scene where he, Hastur, and Ligur were discussing their Deeds of the Day; the other two gave truly demonic acts such as tempting a priest and corrupting a politician, while he simply admitted to causing people annoyance and ruining their day by tying up telephone wires. It did not gain his lord any souls unlike the other two but simply tainted them a smidge; and like Aziraphale, he seems to be too fond of humans. There is this one scene that drives this idea home and it was that scene in the events place that was formerly the convent. Crowley had replaced all the paintball guns with real guns and after enough gently chastising from Aziraphale, he grudgingly admits that none of the humans would get hurt.
- 3. They’re gay for each other
They both refer to each other via endearments, even in public where people would naturally assume that they aren’t simply friends. In one scenario, Crowley felt a wave of loneliness when Aziraphale dismissed him in favor of Agnes Nutter’s book. It is possible that in the gap between their interactions and the implications of their thousand year history, that something has or could’ve happened to change their relationship from that of natural enemies to reluctant friends to friends and eventually to lovers; or nearly lovers since it seems by these few lines here:
He smiled at Crowley.
“I’d just like to say,” he said “if we don’t get out of this, that… I’ll have known, deep down inside, that there was a spark of goodness in you.”
“That’s right,” said Crowley bitterly. “Make my day”
Aziraphale held out his hand.
“Nice knowing you,” he said
Crowley took it.
“Here’s to next time,” he said. “And… Aziraphale?”
“Just remember I’ll have known that, deep down inside, you were just enough of a bastard to be worth liking.” (Gaiman and Pratchett 370)
That they’re both too stubborn to admit it. As by Aziraphale’s previous statements; demons can’t love but perhaps when these lines have been spoken there was a small glimmer of hope that that belief was not true.
Aziraphale’s lines towards Crowley can be easily thought of to be a reconsideration, a sudden turn of direction from saying what he truly felt about the demon as implied by the ellipsis. It could be that he realized the gravity of their situation and didn’t want to derail the other or perhaps he was simply fearful of the other’s reaction. While the “Yes.” In reply to Crowley could’ve been a silent confirmation, an answer to what the demon hasn’t even asked yet but was probably going to. The distinct use of a period instead of a question mark implies that this was not an open to continue but an answer to an unspoken question. It would then imply that Crowley’s reply was in response to that affirmation of feelings and as close as he would admit to his own emotional inclinations. Their holding of hands in itself is a strong evidence supporting this idea. There was really no need for it yet they still did it, in human culture a simple holding of hands can mean a whole lot of things but mostly it is a symbolic way of showing fondness towards a loved one, with whom one holds a deep connection.
This forbidden relationship is then another reason why these two have both sauntered vaguely into the gray area, they are men who have fallen in love with each other and enemies that have crossed the line to bask in the other’s presence. They go against, not only human categories but also that of the supernatural. This fact can be further proven by the numerous fanfictions written about their relationship, indicating that I am not the only one that sees the unspoken charge or chemistry between these two characters.
This also proves the existence of the gray area, that there is more than one option and that one isn’t simply male or female, angel or demon, and good or evil. This tells that everyone is all a little bit gray, a little bit queer, and whole lot unique. As Oscar Wilde had said “To Define is to Limit”.
Crowley nodded gloomily. “Let me tempt you to some lunch,” he hissed.
They went to the Ritz again, where a table was mysteriously vacant. And perhaps the recent exertions had had some fallout in the nature of reality because, while they were eating, for the first time ever, a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.
No one heard it over the noise of the traffic, but it was there, right enough.
 A nightingale symbolizes love but also death, it signifies that lovers will remain together but both are in danger.