Karl Marx believes in order for a human to validate it’s existence, the individual must reflect the “self” in the world around him, creating significance or a meaning for his existence. This reflection must happen with other humans in order sustain his position in the world or ensure that he is human at all. Levinas discusses relationship with the “self” in The Face. He states, “ It is difficult to be silent in someone’s presence; this difficulty has its ultimate foundation in this signification proper to saying, whatever is the said…to speak to respond to him and already to answer for him.” This reflection of the self creates existence and comforts the individual sustaining he is human.
This conversation is with both the “self” and another human. In Parker’s Back , Parker cannot find meaning, significance, or even existence in his life. Initially, he lives his life aesthetically, receiving tattoos for pure physical admiration. He does not assign any meaning or significance to his tattoos and relishes only that he have tattoos on the front of his body for purposes of entertainment for their color and brilliance. This aesthetic perspective does not allow him to live, or feel even for his wife. Flannery O’ Connor describes Parker as someone “who could not account for her(wife) one way or another, it was himself he could not understand”. Parker cannot relate to his “self”, therefore he cannot connect to anyone else. Further, O’Connor expresses Parker’s disconnect from others in the conversation or lack of conversation he has with his wife. This interaction sparks a marriage with no vivid description of love or emotion.
Aristotle comments that there are two realms that humans must interact with; being and becoming. The realm of the being is purely aesthetic and physical, and humans must transcend themselves into the realm of the becoming to make the realm of being meaningful. Parker lives in this world of the being up until he realizes that he yearns for his wife. Placing the tattoo of God on his back transcends the tattoo and the realization of his “self” into a meaningful existence, both for the tattoo and himself.
Parker experiences the pain that comes with his progression into the realm of becoming. His wife’s reaction hurts his pride, and even further separates him from the relationship with another human. His wife is unable to see the transcendence or the “becoming”, she too is tramped in a world of aesthetic. Parker’s tattoo was not merely to capture God on his back. He received the tattoo to receive love from her. It was not the tattoo, but the meaning that he placed on it, which his wife failed to see and accept.