Essentially, with this quote is the overriding theme of the story he is trying to convey, that the only way to know the entire story about anyone or anything is to understand the inner workings of each of the parts, no matter how small. Although everything eventually comes together, the truth that Mitchell is attempting to share with the reader is the fact that – as Jacob said – that the sense of the overriding whole is essentially “numinous”.
“I find a certain comfortin humanity’s helplessness” (Mitchell 148). This quote is uttered by Doctor Marinus, the botanist who plays a harpsichord and believes that not much in life is worth believing in. Here, Marinus is recounting the fact that because humans and mankind in general are helpless, there might actually be hope for the future. This type of philosophy is another echo of Mitchell’s belief that each person must play their part in the larger scheme of life, whether it be an overall responsibility to humankind or the tiniest requirement to handle something miniscule. Either way, Marinus is helping to recount Mitchell’s underlying theme of dependence of the whole on the smallest elements, no matter how insignificant they might seem.
Mitchell, David. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.