I would like to know what "a force of their own, agents of relief and consolation" means in the following sentences:

‘I’m a—’ My voice almost steady. ‘I’m a homosexual.’

The world did not tumble. Her face remained calm. The white winter light still streamed into the room as if into a church, illuminating the floor and us, my heart pumped blood around my body – accelerated, but still – and a shiver ran through me, through my entire being, and I felt like something dead and heavy inside had been expelled, as if I’d been carrying a leaden ghost within me all that time. I felt dizzy. I tried to say something else but there was nothing to say. She took me into her arms, and I allowed her to – into her soft arms, against her pullover, cushioned by the soft breasts beneath it.

‘It’s OK,’ she whispered. ‘I understand.’ She stroked my hair. ‘You’re good. Don’t you worry. You’ll be fine. You’re good.’

Even if I had wanted to, I wouldn’t have been able to stop the tears. They poured out all by themselves, a force of their own, agents of relief and consolation, flooding my face, emptying my mind. And we sat like this, enveloped in one another, in the bright light, for an immeasurable amount of time. When I straightened myself, she left and returned moments later with a tissue.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he decided to leave the country after trying hard to stay in the country. (The main reason that Ludwik decided to leave the country was the fact that his lover Janusz constantly tried to straddle between Ludwik and a girl named Hania, the daughter of some high Party officer.) But the Passport Bureau wouldn't give him the passport, blackmailing him with the fact that he was a homosexual. So Ludwik took another route, by visiting Hania's house and telling her about his situation and asking her for help so that he could get the passport. But Hania said she needed to know what it was that they were blackmailing Ludwik with, in order to know how to best approach the situation, so Ludwik came out for the first time in his life, confessing that he was a homosexual. To his confession, Hania said "You're good," and Ludwik started to cry.

In this part, I would like to know what "a force of their own" and "agents of relief and consolation" mean.

Does "force" mean "an army," meaning that the tears formed a group, perhaps...? Or does it mean "power"?

And by "agents," does it mean that the tears were the drives/motives that enabled relief and consolation...? (These are my wild guesses.)

1 Answer 1


"They" here refers to "the tears" that is, Ludwik's tears. Ludwik sees them as separate from him. He says that "They poured out all by themselves," as if he had no influence or control over them. He says that they are "a force of their own", meaning that they have power independent of him presumably emotional power. He says that they are "agents of relief and consolation" meaning that the tears relive his painful emotions, and console them.

All this is symbolic. The tears are not a physical force, nor an army, but the act of releasing them, and the emotions that they represent, changes Ludwik and has an effect on nhim, and perhaps on Hania. The tears do not give him any physical relief, but he feels relived and consoled by the act of crying, and by expressing the emotions that he has long kept secret. He may also feel consoled by Hania's words and gesture of affection and support.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .