Parker is devoid of an identity. He has no idea who he truly is. “He stayed as if she had him conjured” (p. 425), “it was himself he could not understand” (p. 425)—he lacks definition in himself, he leaves the defining to someone else. His tattoos work in a similar way. He wishes that they will define his being. However, his tattoos are purely aesthetical- “he did not care what subject it was so long as it was colorful.” They have no meaning, and any aesthetical meaning they have is lost in a month. The tattoo becomes a symbol of his “huge dissatisfaction”. In addition to this, he only wants the tattoo to be for himself and views the idea of getting a tattoo on his back, one that he cannot see, as ridiculous. Thus, it is not a communal tattoo and, as we learned, without the communal aspect of the tattoo, the tattoo itself loses its meaning.
Both Parker and the boy in “Cross of Soot” get tattoos after seeing another person with one. Before the fair, “it did not enter his head that there was anything out of the ordinary about the fact that he existed”—until then he saw “no wonder in himself”. I’m sure this is a similar feeling the boy has but as Wendt is able to take the tattoo and give it meaning, allowing the tattoo to define him, Parker only concerns himself with the aesthetic aspects of the tattoo—the tattoos have no meaning and are empty symbols upon his skin. If we apply meanings to tattoos and the tattoos, in turn, define us then Parker cannot define himself. Parker is searching for an image, an identity, but lacks an understanding of what a tattoo is. He is constantly searching for the tattoo that will give him his identity, validating his existence, but is incapable of doing this because he places his identity in the hands of empty symbols.