Noah Sweetwine’s “invisible museum” represents his desire to make sense of the world around him. The “museum” is a mental space inside his mind where he composes paintings and drawings that reflect the world around him and his reactions to its pain, joy, and drama. Noah is constantly coming up with titles for portraits and self-portraits based on the things that are happening to him in real life; for instance, when he sees his sister come home from hangouts with her new friends—and boyfriends, he imagines a portrait entitled “Jude Braiding Boy After Boy into Her Hair.” Noah’s “invisible” portraits are often metaphoric, invoking a mood rather than a literal image. The shy, introverted Noah is, at the start of the novel, struggling intensely with his sexuality and a lack of self-esteem; within the invisible museum, however, the world is something Noah can control and make sense of. Thus, the invisible museum becomes a symbol throughout the novel for Noah’s desire to understand and indeed participate in the world, frightening and intense as it is to him—every time Noah paints a mental picture of someone he loves, draws in charcoal something that frightens him, or arranges into abstract cubes someone he’s puzzled by, Noah is working to understand his friends, his family, himself, and the world beyond the sleepy town of Lost Cove, California.
The Invisible Museum Quotes in I’ll Give You the Sun
[Jude] scoots over so we’re shoulder to shoulder. This is us. Our pose. The smush. It’s even how we are in the ultrasound photo they took of us inside Mom and how I had us in the picture Fry ripped up yesterday. Unlike most everyone else on earth, from the very first cells of us, we were together, we came here together. This is why no one hardly notices that Jude does most of the talking for both of us, why we can only play piano with all four of our hands on the keyboard and not at all alone, why we can never do Rochambeau because not once in thirteen years have we chosen differently. It’s always: two rocks, two papers, two scissors. When I don’t draw us like this, I draw us as half-people.
The calm of the smush floods me. She breathes in and I join her. Maybe we’re too old to still do this, but whatever. I can see her smiling even though I’m looking straight ahead. We exhale together, then inhale together, exhale, inhale, in and out, out and in, until not even the trees remember what happened in the woods yesterday, until Mom’s and Dad’s voices turn from mad to music, until we’re not only one age, but one complete and whole person.
Mom says Jude acts the way she does now on account of hormones, but I know it’s on account of her hating me. She stopped going to museums with us ages ago, which is probably a good thing, because when she did, her shadow kept trying to strangle mine. I’d see it happening on the walls or on the floor. Sometimes lately, I catch her shadow creeping around my bed at night trying to pull the dreams out of my head. I have a good idea what she does instead of coming to the museum, though. Three times now, I’ve seen hickeys on her neck. Bug bites, she said. Sure. I heard while spying that she and Courtney Barrett have been riding bikes down to the boardwalk on weekends, where they see who can kiss more boys.
(Portrait: Jude Braiding Boy After Boy into Her Hair)
He points to my pad. “So I guess you just talk in there, is that it?”
“Pretty much,” I say. We’re under a streetlamp and I’m trying not to stare but it’s hard. I wish the world would stick like a clock so I could look at him for as long as I want. There’s something going on in his face right now, something very bright trying to get out—a dam keeping back a wall of light. His soul might be a sun. I’ve never met anyone who had the sun for a soul.
I want to say more so he doesn’t leave. I feel so good, the freaking green leafy kind of good. “I paint in my head,” I tell him. “I was the whole time.” I’ve never told anyone I do this, not even Jude, and I have no idea why I’m telling him. I’ve never let anyone into the invisible museum before.
“Let’s go,” Noah says, and we’re running together into the woods like we used to, and I can see how he’ll draw it later, with the redwoods bowing, the flowers opening like houses for us to enter, the creek following behind us in winding wending color, our feet inches above the ground.
Or maybe he’ll do it like this: the forest a blur of green over our heads while we lie on our backs, playing Rochambeau.
He picks rock. I pick scissors. I pick paper. He picks scissors. He picks rock. I pick paper. We give up, happily. It’s a new age. […]
I roll on my side to face him. “So can you believe how weird I’ve gotten and how normal you’ve gotten?” “It’s astounding,” he says, which cracks us both up. “Except most of the time,” he adds, “I feel like I’m undercover.”
“Me too.” I pick up a stick, start digging with it. “Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,” I say. “Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.” Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things.