What's with Antonio?

I take issue with Nalo Hopkinson's portrayal of love in Midnight robber. In particular, I object to the way that the story of Antonio plays out. I acknowledge that he was always a clearly flawed character, but I didn't see him as someone who was beyond saving in the beginning of the book. In fact, I saw him as a uniquely empathetic character, in that he clearly loved his daughter. He may have been a sinister mayor, with a desire to keep secrets from Nanny and the public, but in the beginning, it seems like he is not all selfishness. When we first meet her, Antonio reveals his inner tenderness for Tan-Tan, "his doux-doux darling girl, his one pureness." (13) He adores her so much that, "he was forever going to watch at her sleeping in her bassinet." (13) Clearly, there is something unique about Antonio's relationship with Tan-Tan. The love he shows to Tan-Tan is possibly only paralleled by the love that Tan-Tan shows him in the beginning. When I read this description of Antonio's adoration, I immediately categorized him as someone to root for. My reasoning was as follows. He loves Tan-Tan in what seems to be a purely selfless way, so he must care for more than just himself. If he cares for one person more than himself, he must be capable of caring for others. I had thought that his love for his daughter revealed that Antonio was a truly caring person.
Especially, when contrasted with Antonio's relationship with Ione, I thought Antonio's relationship with Tan-Tan would be a saving grace. Before they had a baby together, Ione's and Antonio's lives were ruled by passion. Their pursuit of "love so sweet it hot" led them to repeatedly cheat on each other. (45) They apparently saw this dynamic, where they were constantly quarrelling over the each other's lovers, as a game, which somehow kept their sexual life interesting, and provide for passionate reunions. To me, this sort of behavior seems completely hedonistic and self-serving. Yet, once they have the Tan-Tan, Antonio seems to experience an almost tangible shift in priorities. Ione continued with her series of other lovers, but the romantic turbulence doesn't seem like it was a prominent factor in their lives until we reach the where the story starts off. I had thought this series of events indicated that the entrance of Tan-Tan into Antonio's life had redirected him away from an entirely selfish mode of functioning. It seemed to me that Hopkinson portrayed passion as a destructive force, but that the entrance of Tan-Tan into the story stifled the cycle of passion by introducing love into the equation.
Unfortunately, all my notions about Antonio were steadily shattered. It starts when it is revealed that he used poison in the machete battle. From there, the situation deteriorates. It becomes clear that Antonio is still the same self centered man, and Tan-Tan's attachment to him becomes painful. He leaves her outside the bedroom while he and Ione fuck, right before he is sent to his holding cell. Clearly, his passion overwhelmed the love that we were seeing earlier in the book. How could he want his last act as a citizen of Toissant to be to fuck his wife, rather than see his daughter? It tore at me more than I would have expected. From then on, desire, not love seems to be his driving motivation. He took Tan-Tan with him half-way tree, seemingly out of desperation, rather than any care for her. And ultimately, this desire goes completely out of control, and he rapes his daughter, expressing, what I once would have considered love, as pure primal passion.
To summarize, I see this chain of events as a way to befoul fatherly love. I can't imagine how the feelings he felt for his daughter in the beginning could be conveyed as anything more sinister than any other father's feelings. By the development, it seems to me that Nalo Hopkinson is saying that this love really is rooted in passion, and therefore that love is truly as destructive as passion.

I'd agree that in the beginning Antonio's love for Tan-Tan does seem selfless, but only on a very superficial level. Generally speaking, he seems like he's going to be a sympathetic character, but even in the first reading of the passage, I was very put off by the way he described his love for Tan-Tan. He wanted her because she was "someone who would listen to him, look up to him. Like Ione when she'd been a green young woman" (6). At that he's revealed as so obviously power-hungry, I was certain he was going to have some messed up relationships with women. And later, describing Tan-Tan "just so Ione had been as a young thing... Sweet Tan-Tan. Pretty just like your mother" (13). He's already using her to replace her mother in some function when she's born. I guess for him, it wasn't a huge leap to let her stand in sexually for Ione later. Really, it's always about him, I don't think we see a perversion of love that's actually pure, but rather the progression of an obsession that never was pure. Which I think leaves room for the existence of unsullied, nondestructive love (read: Melonhead).

I would argue that, even at the beginning of the book, his love for his daughter is creepy. In the same passage when Tan-Tan is described as his "one pureness," he thinks "Just so Ione had been as a young thing" and even as an infant, he says Tan-Tan is "Pretty just like your mother" and there is his obsessive need to touch his baby daughter (13). As soon as he has visual proof that his wife is cheating on him, he abandons his daughter as well, who reminds him so much of his wife. Tan-Tan's physical resemblance to her mother is something Antonio mentions throughout his life. He also mentions Tan-Tan being pure like Ione was at the beginning of his marriage on several occasions. I felt that from the beginning, there was a very clear, sinister parallel drawn between his love for Ione and his love from Tan-Tan.

I don't think he truly loves anyone, expect *maybe* himself. Rather, he is fixated on possessing people. His manipulative, corrupt mayorship that is hinted at is just another facet of this. He stops loving Ione because he is no longer his pure object. And I think he wants to possess Tan-Tan, too, from her birth, given his fixation with her and her purity. Is he fantasizing about raping his infant, I don't think so, or at least don't want to, but I do think going to New Half-Way Tree breaks away the barriers he constructed within himself to conform to society, barriers that were already crumbling in Toussaint. He already clearly had some fucked up ideas about love and partnership, as seen with his relationship with Ione.

Also interesting to note, there is some concept of open marriage, non-monogamous marriage, in both Toussaint and New Half-Way Tree, but both Ione and Antonio are highly monogamously minded about their partner's lifestyle. A whole lot of heartache could have been avoided if they just had an openly non-monogamous relationship, but again, that concept of love being possession comes into play. You could argue that Ione doesn't seem to love her daughter because Antonio has already staked out a possessive claim on Tan-Tan from birth.

Also, tangential but pertinent, especially given the way stories are woven through the book, these sites and this book, among many others, look at the trope of father-daughter incest in western culture. I think that maybe having this background highlights the little clues dropped at the beginning of the book that something is not quite right with Antonio.

Blacklace brings up an important point that I don't remember being mentioned in class, which is that of the open marriage. It seems that on New Half-Way Tree there are varying romantic arrangements. One example was One-Eye, his deputy and the doctor (I apologize, but I don't have the book in front of me for page numbers and exact references) who seemed to have a triangular commitment centering on the deputy (Claus?) whom both One-Eye and the doctor openly adored. It seemed an interesting choice for Hopkinson to make the distinction between the pride and status associated with perfectly functioning monogamous relationships in Toussaint and the open, relaxed and fluctuating nature of relationships on New Half-Way Tree.

I'll agree with all the commenters here, that Antonio is a seriously creepy dude. He clearly is unstable by the time he hits Half-Way Tree.

I don't believe, however, that he was always a bad man. I think what's really interesting and valuable about Hopkinson's portrayal of Antonio is that his development from doting father to rapist is so gradual a progression. It seems to me that this development is not something that could have been predicted, except in retrospect. Instead, I think it shows the ease with which anyone can become the kind of monster that Antonio became. I don't think there is anything inherent to Antonio that is not also present in everyone.

I'm not sure it's so impossible to see Antonio's fall coming, if you know to look. Yes, he clearly is somewhat broken by his experiences, but from the start he seems to show signs that he might be the type. For one thing, his relationship with Ione is very antagonstic and seems at least verbally if not physicaly abusive. Also there are the things other people have mentioned about his always somewhat strange feelings towards his daughter. Finally, there is his chauvinistic attitude towards fidelity, where he feels it is fine for him to cheat but a deal-breaker for Ione. Chauvenistic beliefs about gender are some of the leading risk factors for spousal abuse, although I don't know about child abuse.

"By the development, it seems to me that Nalo Hopkinson is saying that this love really is rooted in passion, and therefore that love is truly as destructive as passion."

In Lit Theory today we talked about Freud and my professor said something along the lines of "Frued didn't believe in love; everything is motivated by sex."

With something as taboo and perverse as this father-daughter incestuous sexual abuse, it's hard to believe that Antonio's love has degenerated into this base need. I agree with with our prof said on Monday: Antonio does seem like a good guy early in the novel. After you know what happens and read deeper into his character at the beginning, some descriptions are just plain creepy. I believe someone else already brought this up in a comment, but that line about how he can't stop touching his baby daughter is disturbing.