While reading The Intuitionist, all I kept thinking was why elevators and why Intuitionists versus Empiricists? Colson Whitehead creates a strong contrast between the Intuitionists and Empiricists immedietely in the novel and I have a feeling this dynamic will continue to develop throughout the novel.
The repeated emphasis on the difference between Empiricists and Illusionists reminded me of political parties, such as Democrats and Republicans. This is only fitting since the two parties are currently fighting for election as the new Guild Chair, which automatically becomes the head of the city’s Department of Elevator (page 33). Similar to political parties, the Empiricists and Illusionists engage in questionable tactics to win office and, although only their views differ, are not able to get along to better the company, or country.
Did Whitehead mean for these parties to symbolize political parties and is he symbolizing something much deeper within culture? Is he highlighting the nature of political parties and their lack of interest in politics?
There must be meaning behind the choice of elevators, however, I cannot quite figure it out from just Part One of the novel. Is it because the elevators can only move up and down, being restricted from moving sideways? Why is it that escalator inspectors are viewed as a lower job than elevator inspectors even though they can move sideways while elevators cannot? Could the elevators symbolize the upward and downward motion of political parties? Although I have so many questions, I hope that some of these are answered as we continue to read the novel.
On another note, after reading Part One I decided to research how common elevator free-falls actually are and was quite relieved. Prior to September 11, 2001 there was only one elevator free falling incidence record which occurred when an airplane hit the Empire State Building. Although 14 people died in the building, Betty Lou Oliver who was on the elevator that plummeted from the 75th floor survived the accident. Just in case, here is a video on how to survive a free falling elevator: