The protagonist of Dhalgren, Delany's 1974 novel, is a man who cannot remember his own name, and is only referred to as "Kid" (or sometimes "Kidd" or "The Kid"). Throughout the novel he only ever wears one sandal, his other foot being left bare. When the Kid first entered Bellona and encountered Tak Loufer, he told him that he lost his sandal a couple of days before when he was running away from a dog. Later during the raid on the department store he loses his other sandal, and replaces it with a black moccasin boot - he had the chance to wear a pair, but deliberately opted to keep his other foot bare.

I was wondering if Delany had any specific reason for keeping the Kid half unshod. When I first read about the Kid's bare foot I was reminded of Jason's arrival at the court of king Pelias who had been warned by an oracle to "beware the man with one sandal", but I don't see any other references to the Argonauts, or Greek mythology, in the text.

2 Answers 2


On one level, it is a personal trope of Delany’s writings. Characters in two other Delany novels and one short story also wear only one shoe or boot: Mouse in Nova (1968), Hogg in Hogg (1995), and Roger in "We, in Some Strange Power's Employ Move on a Rigorous Line" (1967). While Delany has given numerous interviews about his work, I’m not aware of any where he detailed any motivation for this condition.

Having one shoe or foot covering symbolizes many meanings in cultures Delany is familiar with, and could apply. It can mean loss; Kid has lost memories. It can mean specifically a loss or transfer of one’s power. It can mean redemption. Ultimately, Delany likes to leave interpretations of his works up to the readers themselves. In Dhalgren, it’s not even certain when Kid may have lost his shoe, and that may or may not be important to when meaning is applied to the symbolism of his loss.


I think there are some words about it in Nova:

Those who worked under free-fall in the ships that went between planets developed the agility of at least one set of toes, sometimes both, till it rivaled world-lubbers’ hands, and ever after kept that foot free.

Not that it’s a related story in any way… still.

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