Week 1 reading response: McInerney, Wood, Updike

Bright Lights, Big City is that rare work: a successful 2nd-person novel. Notice that significant portions of the Rabbit at Rest opening are also in 2nd person.

How are these deployments of the 2nd person alike? How are they different? What are the authors getting out of the device? What is the relationship of this maneuver, if any, to free-indirect narration?

For every claim you make, please cite specific instances in the three texts (both novels and Wood).

Week 1 reading response: McInerney, Wood, Updike

13 thoughts on “Week 1 reading response: McInerney, Wood, Updike

  1. Alona says:

    “Bright Lights Big City” absolutely stunned me, particularly because of the second person narration. I usually try to avoid second person in my writing because it is a real challenge, but after reading a whole novel written this way I can really see what a powerful tool this is; as such I will continue this comment in second person. As you read a book written in second person narration the character and the imagery is projected in to your brain; for all intent a purposes you become the character, and are left with no choice but to relate to him/her. This type of narration might also be very relatable as it is very similar to the way you verbally tell stories when you wish to make your listeners experience what you did (for example: ‘you’re on the u-bahn and this drunk dude comes up to’ etc). You would think combining second person narration and free indirect style would be impossible as the character inhabits you and has no agency outside of you (or so it feels). However, when you read “Bright Lights Big City” you stumble upon moments in which the character is no longer you, but someone separated (though it’s still in your head, it’s kind of trippy). For example, the character is obsessed with coma baby, but the narration does not compel you to be obsessed with it as well. When the character says “if the sunlight catches you on the streets, you will undergo some terrible chemical change” (p.172), it is clearly no your thought. But an independent thought of the character that has snuck past the narrator and in to your head. When reading “Rabbit at Rest” you will notice a different kind of second person narration. Updike’s second person narration is not used to be planted in your head, but is and execution of free indirect style. Rabbit “interrupts” his narration and tries to appeal directly to you so you can understand his situation (“the whole state babies you” p.4). You do not become Rabbit, but are closer to him. In both cases the authors’ choice of second person narration succeeds in bringing you closer to the events and characters in the book.

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  2. Lola Jalbert says:

    The use of the 2nd person in both Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City and John Updike’s iconic novel, Rabbit at Rest is effective in conveying an inner monologue that is steeped in self loathing. Neither narrative is blatant in describing the depression that the characters are experiencing. Both authors let small details demonstrate the protagonist’s sadness and frustration. For example, Updike has his character, Rabbit, describe the music that he hears as, “the kind of music you become aware of only when the elevator stops or when the dentist stops drilling.” (Updike 2) This description is written in such a flat, emotionless way that the reader can feel Rabbit’s frustration at the monotony of his own life. This is the key difference in the alternate ways the two protagonists express their depression. While Rabbit’s sadness is cloaked in his refusal to express his feelings and his thick cynicism, McInerney’s character represents his depression in impulsive and reckless actions, usually but not always connected to drug use. One example of this is on page 63, when he almost buys a random ferret from a man on the street. It is almost as if he has no impulse control at all; his inner monologue doesn’t find it possible to say no when most people would. Rabbit, on the other hand, sticks to safer manifestations of his unhappiness. This technique is particularly reflected in how he regards the world (“As the candy settles in his stomach a sense of doom regrows its claws around his heart: little prongs like those that hold fast a diamond solitaire.” [5]) and in how he treats his wife (“Rabbit would like to share with her the sudden chill he had felt, the shadow of some celestial airplane, but a shell she has grown repels him. The dress at her waist felt thick and unresponsive, a damp hide. He is alone with his premonition.” [3]). These moments of depression can also often serve as examples of free indirect narration because they are unguarded and uncensored moments where the characters are, in many ways speaking only to themselves. Many times, the thoughts are too mean or too frank to speak aloud, and therefore are often phrased in a colloquial manner. “You could get the guys in Typesetting to cut you a few hours’ slack on the deadline. You could get the Penguin thing out of the way in half an hour and then buckle down to it.” (McInerney 59) Phrases such as “cut you a few hours,” “slack,” and “buckle down” are points where the text leads from simple 2nd person narration towards free indirect style. As James Wood puts it his book How Fiction Works, “When I talk about free indirect style I am really talking about point of view, and when I talk about point of view I am really talking about the perception of detail, and when I talk about detail I’m really talking about character, and when I talk about character I am really talking about the real, which is at the bottom of my inquiries.” Points like this in both narration are marked by their slang language, which moves the narration from 2nd person into the character’s head.

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  3. Ronni says:

    While both Bright Lights, Big City and the opening of Rabbit at Rest make use of second-person narrative, in my view this device’s roles in the two different works are completely opposite to one another.
    In Rabbit, the use of the second person almost slips by us unnoticed because it’s used to describe settings which strike a note of familiarity with the reader – putting us in the receiving position, for instance, for driving instructions to the airport: “The airport is relatively new. You drive to it off Exit 21 of Interstate 75 down three miles of divided highway […]” (1). Here, the use of specific names (‘Interstate 75”) intensifies the effect of generated familiarity in the readers and creates a situation in which we identify with Rabbit. We know what it’s like to drive to the airport. We might even know what Interstate 75 is. Though Rabbit is an alienating and difficult character, we the readers identify with him almost subconsciously through Updike’s use of intermittent second person.
    In Bright Lights, we meet a young man whose actions are rash, inexplicable and at times idiotic. His drug-fueled escapades are followed wearily by us, the readers, who want nothing more than to slap some sense into him. Here, the use of second person is ironic. Narrating a book using the second person implies that the narrator is describing a shared experience which is common not only to the reader and the story’s character, but to all readers. But there is nothing that helps us identify with our unnamed protagonist’s actions in Bright Lights. This stark separation between character and reader is intense in the scene where Megan invites him over for dinner and he steals her Valium: “You open the medicine cabinet over the sink […] You score on the first try: ‘Valium, for tension’” (p.134). This type of behavior is so irrational, so alienating, that narrating it in second person is completely tongue-in-cheek.
    Updike’s use of second person in the opening pages of Rabbit at Rest is a tool which lends a hand to the use of free-indirect narration. It makes the reader identify with Rabbit’s experiences, ones which are so relatable that the reader is likely to miss the fact that the narration shifts from third to second person. I’m conflicted as to what relation the second person has, if at all, to free indirect narrative in Bright Lights, Big City. I think that it somehow pushes beyond this type of narrative and creates something completely different. The free indirect narrative is supposed to give characters a voice to speak through an author’s third person narration – but in this case, the whole narrative is completely direct, and is always completely the character’s own.

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  4. Manon Ayçoberry says:

    I feel somehow always particularly close to the use 2nd person in novels and short stories. I like to use it a lot in my writing, sometimes in the whole text, sometimes only in a few sentences. I know that it sometimes makes other people like my work a little less, but it always makes me happier about it. It was definitely my favourite surprise about Bright Lights, Big City, especially after reading Wood’s statement about narration. His claim that the use of 2nd person is usually not very successful made me appreciate Mc Inerny’s fine use of it even more. The ‘you’ is always very striking for me. First, because of it feels like the narrator/character is seeing himself from the outside and can thus express his feelings a different way, a more explicit way, a way everyone can get what you mean – because you can also see the narrator through this outside perspective. Also, the use of 2nd person is very direct, it’s getting right at you, like the narrator is speaking to the reader. It makes you feel closer to him, because you could be that person too. When the narrator tells you “you’re not that kind of person”, it makes you wonder about yourself, wether he is talking to you about himself or yourself. The use of the you makes you question your own role in this story, it creates some kind of self-reflection effect. It makes you realise you could be in the character’s shoes, even more aggressively when the character has the strange but very human habit of acting worse and worse and not getting back on his feet. In Rabbit, it didn’t make feel closer to the person at all because his thoughts are so far from most people. The use of the 2nd person only made me feel like Rabbit’s own inner monologue, it helped me get his thoughts from the outside perspective but not in a self-reflective way.

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  5. Wilma says:

    I personally found James Wood’s description of free-indirect narration as a sort of fabric or substance that can be molded and modified by the author very insightful and highly pertinent to both Bright Lights, Big City as well as Rabbit At Rest. For me, it helped me understand just how much deeper the control over the text belongs to the author than one thinks, as well as how masterfully this particular instrument can be used.
    I have never read a novel like McInerney’s, and I was surprised just how easily I could immerse myself into reading it. I was anticipating something dry, as one expects of something that is created in accordance with some sort of rule the author made for himself. However, here, narration seemed oh so natural. In fact, I didn’t have to immerse myself, given that I was part of the story, and very clearly everything was as the author described, myself included. I can’t say much about the fabric of the distance between character and author, or rather, reader and author; there was none. The author/narrator was myself. In that sense I guess one could say that the distance between the two subjects as Wood discusses simply does not exist.
    In Rabbit at Rest, the ‘space’ is purposefully manipulated and played with extensively: Updike kind of moves the reader in and out of it, bringing him as close as being personally in the story, like in McInerney’s work, and far away in viewing the characters in third person. Here, we are much more aware of all of the things Wood says about free-indirect narration, simply because of all the ‘switches’ we are made to be so. In general, I liked the latter work more in the usage of this specific device, simply because the way it was executed seemed brilliant to me. For this particular lesson, it was more appropriate to exemplify the device, and it surprised and delighted me.

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  6. Joel says:

    The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that McInnerney’s success in Bright Lights, Big City is not only due to the cunning use of 2nd-person narration but because it’s central theme is alienation, a physiological concept that links us to the story’s nameless protagonist. Why do we never learn his name or any of his physical traits? Because we are trapped in his head, acting like a voiceless consciences or sub conscience. This is why we identify with the protagonist even if we don’t share any of his world views or modes of behaviour, whether we like it or not, we become the character but we have no voice, we are passive yet feel the pain of his suffering to a point that we want to confront him and slap him in the face like his brother Michael near the end of the novel -even tough that wasn’t enough.
    “Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don’t want to invite anyone inside” (30). This is the state in which our protagonist is in, his belief system has crumbled and it is through the use of the author’s 2nd-person narration that we inhabit the character’s mind and act as a handicapped spectator inside it. I say handicapped because we are voiceless, yet we feel that we are there, we are spectators to the train wreck but at the same time it happens to us, we feel the alienation because after all, we can identify with it to a certain degree.
    As for Rabbit, I would agree with Ronni and restate that the 2nd-person narration goes by almost unnoticed. It is there for you to feel like you’re in the car driving down the highway and going in the airport. We are with Rabbit but not inside his head, we don’t make up his bought process or consciousness. This may be do to the fact that the narration is more directed towards the aesthetics of the surroundings and not how they interact with you. In other words, how things look instead of how we see them. This also may apply to the beginning of the novel since we see the exponential growth of the Rabbits complexity as we read on.

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  7. Loulou says:

    Both Updike and McInerney use second-person narration in their book. Both in their own individual way. Rabbit at rest (Updike) starts with third person narration. We get some names, we know what’s happenings and what the character is waiting for (his son and daughter-in-law + children). So that’s clear from the beginning. That’s not the same with BLBC. We don’t get names, we don’t get a certain location (It could either be the Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge?), some bystanders ‘a girl with a shaved head’ (pg. 1). It remains vague about who the character actually is, the character also doesn’t know himself that well. What also struck me were the differences in the openings paragraphs in both books. Each book starts with a description of the location the characters are at that time. RAR starts in sunny daytime Florida and BLBC starts at night, in a nightclub. These opening paragraphs immediately set the tone of both books I think (although of course I’ve only read the first couple of pages of RAR). RAR uses its different tones of narration to keep it moving. To not make it a long paragraphs, which might become boring when describing an airport and their way to it. In the first three paragraphs he starts them each with a different type of narration. The first one with third-person, second with second-person and the third paragraph with direct speech. It keeps the text light and flowing. BLBC needs the second-person narration. It needs it to sweep the reader off its feet by being direct and quick. It’s a fast moving whirlwind and this is our way to follow it. We’re contantly out and about, entering a new nightclub or a bar in the daytime and we need to keep up. It’s very direct, there is no judgement of the author, there isn’t room for it. We are the character, simply because we have to experience the entire story throughout him. We don’t get a name, and I think that’s a very successful aspect of this book. There is simply no name that we can give the character. For all we know it could be us. There is no indication that we’re not? I think that forces the reader to look for similarities between the character and yourself. There will however be a lot of differences which at times makes the book stumble. Also what I think makes the two books different is the recognition of things. Harry from RAR speaks in the openings paragraphs about death and how he sees it coming ‘vaguely shaped like an airplane’ (pg.1). He’s very clear about his feelings (which also shows in how he describes his wife, anxious car etc.). With BLBC, there isn’t a lot of place for feelings, the character keeps going and going. I think that only at the end of BLBC our character truly recognizes his position and his feelings. He finally allows himself to feel. And the end about the death of his mother I found very touching. I would say that the free-indirect narration is stronger in RaR.

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  8. Loulou says:

    Both Updike and McInerney use second-person narration in their book. Both in their own individual way. Rabbit at rest (Updike) starts with third person narration. We get some names, we know what’s happenings and what the character is waiting for (his son and daughter-in-law + children). So that’s clear from the beginning. That’s not the same with BLBC. We don’t get names, we don’t get a certain location (It could either be the Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge?), some bystanders ‘a girl with a shaved head’ (pg. 1). It remains vague about who the character actually is, the character also doesn’t know himself that well. What also struck me were the differences in the openings paragraphs in both books. Each book starts with a description of the location the characters are at that time. RAR starts in sunny daytime Florida and BLBC starts at night, in a nightclub. These opening paragraphs immediately set the tone of both books I think (although of course I’ve only read the first couple of pages of RAR). RAR uses its different tones of narration to keep it moving. To not make it a long paragraphs, which might become boring when describing an airport and their way to it. In the first three paragraphs he starts them each with a different type of narration. The first one with third-person, second with second-person and the third paragraph with direct speech. It keeps the text light and flowing. BLBC needs the second-person narration. It needs it to sweep the reader off its feet by being direct and quick. It’s a fast moving whirlwind and this is our way to follow it. We’re contantly out and about, entering a new nightclub or a bar in the daytime and we need to keep up. It’s very direct, there is no judgement of the author, there isn’t room for it. We are the character, simply because we have to experience the entire story throughout him. We don’t get a name, and I think that’s a very successful aspect of this book. There is simply no name that we can give the character. For all we know it could be us. There is no indication that we’re not? I think that forces the reader to look for similarities between the character and yourself. There will however be a lot of differences which at times makes the book stumble. Also what I think makes the two books different is the recognition of things. Harry from RAR speaks in the openings paragraphs about death and how he sees it coming ‘vaguely shaped like an airplane’ (pg.1). He’s very clear about his feelings (which also shows in how he describes his wife, anxious car etc.). With BLBC, there isn’t a lot of place for feelings, the character keeps going and going. I think that only at the end of BLBC our character truly recognizes his position and his feelings. He finally allows himself to feel. And the end about the death of his mother I found very touching. I would also say that the free indirect-narration is stronger in RAR.

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  9. Joel says:

    The more I think about it, the ore I am convinced that McInnerney’s success in Bright Lights, Big City is not only due to the cunning use of 2nd-person narration but because it’s central theme is alienation, a physiological concept that links us to the story’s nameless protagonist. Why do we never learn his name or any of his physical traits? Because we are trapped in his head, acting like a voiceless consciences or sub conscience. This is why we identify with the protagonist even if we don’t share any of his world views or modes of behaviour, whether we like it or not, we become the character but we have no voice, we are passive yet feel the pain of his suffering to a point that we want to confront him and slap him in the face like his brother Michael near the end of the novel -even tough that wasn’t enough.
    “Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don’t want to invite anyone inside” (30). This is the state in which our protagonist is in, his belief system has crumbled and it is through the use of the author’s 2nd-person narration that we inhabit the character’s mind and act as a handicapped spectator inside it. I say handicapped because we are voiceless, yet we feel that we are there, we are spectators to the train wreck but at the same time it happens to us, we feel the alienation because after all, we can identify with it to a certain degree.
    As for Rabbit, I would agree with Ronni and restate that the 2nd-person narration goes by almost unnoticed. It is there for you to feel like you’re in the car driving down the highway and going in the airport. We are with Rabbit but not inside his head, we don’t make up his bought process or consciousness. This may be do to the fact that the narration is more directed towards the aesthetics of the surroundings and not how they interact with you. In other words, how things look instead of how we see them. This also may apply to the beginning of the novel since we see the exponential growth of the Rabbits complexity as we read on.

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  10. Olorin says:

    Second-person perspective takes me right back to 5th grade. Digging through boxes of old, musty books in the thrift shop down the street; I discovered a series of books that instantly grasped my attention–The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels. Whether I was drawn in by the pastel covers depicting young boys traveling on UFO’s or discovering the Loch Ness Monster, or the opportunity to make my own decisions and take control of the vast array of fantastical decisions presented to me in an effort to find the absolute best of the “57 Possible Endings!” the cover so proudly boasted, I couldn’t say. But I do know that, possibly due to my extremely limited and passionately dedicated experience with this form of narration, the same rush-a feeling of control and impact on the event unfolding before me arose within me immediately upon opening Bright Lights, Big City. Yet, while the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels made me a young time-traveller riding alongside the knights of Camelot, proud of the ingenuity and tact I displayed in avoiding the numerous traps and pitfalls presented in the unfortunate endings (accomplished only occasionally by keeping my finger hidden in the pages of key decisions,) this novel unsettled me. Not, as some have expressed, due to any failure to relate to the main character or his decisions-out of my hands now that I have arrived in college and am reading Literature-but due to an intense, and unfortunate recognition of our kinship. His decisions and movements made sense to me, particularly through the deep backstory of rejection, failure, and untapped potential foisted upon us throughout the development of the novel. Occasionally, his movements even felt as my own- a literary accomplishment in a novel with only one ending. This is an effect I never truly achieved in the brief selections we have read from Rabbit at Rest. The examples above display accurately enough the technical manner in which Updike uses second-person narration. It’s occasional uses, while immersing us within the story, are interspersed with the free-indirect narrative style we studied this week. A beautiful style, which, as I focus my attention upon it, accomplishes quite the opposite of its expected result. By blurring the lines between narrator and subject (both of whom, it should be noted, have already been clearly differentiated from the reader) their separation of power and influence on the text before us, some odd sense of dramatic irony, becomes more stark and bizarre. By bestowing upon the narrator the power to grasp within the subject’s mind, extracting his thoughts-and even his colloquialisms, the author makes him all the more omnipotent, alien, and terrifying. This interspersed: second-person, third-person, and free indirect narrative unsettles me as well, but through an uneasiness of ground, rather than the punishing exploration of my own apathy and moral fortitude Bright Lights, Big City demands of me through its sharp and focused narrative style.

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  11. Acacia says:

    I was quite annoyed when I realized that Bright Lights Big City would be told through second person. It was an accident, seeing a glimpse of the inside pages while inspecting the badly abused book spine, but as I put the book in my bag I was filled with annoyance for the book I would have to read. I think this stems from too many poorly written children’s novels, or too many teachers writing cheesy essay prompts. Though I’ll admit I dabbled with second person in my elementary school writing, I definitely grew to dislike the style. It’s so difficult to manage well.

    Clearly, Bright Lights Big City is an exception to this aversion of mine. I felt myself getting invested into this character of “you” more than I would have a simple narration. I think there’s a stronger connection to the actions of the character, I felt more responsible for everything this character did. “You couldn’t even believe it” (12). This sequence got to me in a stronger way than it should have, having the situation I was a part of explained to me. Listening to the man who sits upon the old lady and being aware that no one is acting upon the actions, not even “you” is infuriating. I felt trapped with every line of drugs that went marching into him, I wanted to tell this person to stop running away from everything.

    I found this frustration in Rabbit At Rest as well, but in a different way. I was able to separate myself from the character more, like Manon said when she discussed not feeling closer, just feeling as though she got to see his inner monologue from an outside perspective. Goodness gracious, I hate Rabbit. I am glad to know his thoughts because they fascinate me-I would generally say that knowing someone’s intentions, thoughts, and personal story make their decisions more understandable…Rabbit is just as bothersome as his outside appearances.

    I find the methods in which the authors show us the flaws of these characters beautiful.

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  12. Irina says:

    Paul Festa wants you to write for the blog. But your mind is full of thoughts. Or maybe those are mine. Or maybe they are actually yours? After all it might be his, the author’s. This is precisely how I felt while reading Bright Lights, Big City. It felt like the line between me as a reader and the character of the novel was blurred. There were moments where I didn’t know if it was the author’s, the character’s or my own thoughts that I saw on the paper. The way McInerney uses 2nd person is both scary and magnificent. “You wanted an explanation, an ending that would assign blame and dish up justice. You considered violence and you considered reconciliation. ”(121) Using this kind of narration McInerney is offering emotions and situations that we have certainly experienced before. He lures us in and before you know it you’re one of his characters. I would disagree with Alona here because I believe that even though we might not be able to relate to everything this character is experiencing, it is the realness of his struggle with friends,drugs,job,love,family or life (choose your poison) that makes me feel like that “you” on the paper is indeed me. Or maybe it has something more to do with the fact that I don’t know the character’s name, which leaves a fill-in-the-blank option open. By playing with the 2nd person narration McInerney plays with your mind. On the other hand, Updike’s Rabbit at Rest employs this technique in a very different manner. He introduces the fifty-five year old character who goes by the name Rabbit. However he puts us inside of his head, and not vice versa. She shifts from 3rd to 2nd person and back to the position of narrator. Unlike McInerney Updike leaves us enough space to remember that we are reading about a man, and that we are entering his mind and soul. That might be the reason why I felt more entitled to judge Rabbit than McInerney’s character. He was more distant, and I was able to judge his flaws from an objective point of view. Nevertheless, it was impressive to read these two works and to realize how much a 2nd person approach can change your experience. While reading Updike I felt I was re-living a life of my best friend, knowing all of his not-so-politically-correct thoughts, but with McInerney the friend whose life I was re-living was me.

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  13. The second person voice has both impersonal and collective aspects to it: impersonal, because it is addressed to an unspecified person or group of people; and collective because in the U.S. it is often a replacement for the more archaic ‚one’, the pronoun which elevates (and sometimes inflates) the opinions of the writer into the opinions of everyone. When Updike writes „the whole state babies you“ he means it as an observation (and possible frustration) of Rabbit’s at the experience of parking but the pronoun lends this experience an objective and general quality. The insinuation to the reader is clear: just as when Rabbit parks and feels the state babying him, so do (or should) all people in America. The second person voice is also a great supplement to free-indirect narration, for while free-indirect narration helps us get really close inside the narrators’ mind, the second person voice cements this intimacy with a general appeal to the reader’s own experience. When Rabbit remembers his old basketball coach’s advice about eating, it is ‘you’ who gets old and eats, not specifically him (Rabbit). Perceptions are sharpened in the readers mind through such an appeal, because the designation (is it Rabbit or ‘us’ in the memory?) is not explicit.
    John McInerey’s tour de force in second person narration takes these uses to dizzying heights. He is like Updike in that his second person voice works to create an equivalence between reader and narrator or protagonist, because the ‘You’ involves a generalised address that could include everyone. He is unlike Updike in that his whole novel consists of this narrative mode. Thus, as the reader accompanies the protagonist in the opening debauchery of the novel, the ambiguity of the address of ‘You’ used as a complete narrative mode places the reader alongside the narrator in almost uncomfortable ways.

    ‘He’ (the narrator) opens the book with ‘You are not the kind of guy that would end up…’. Interestingly, the unclear designation ‘You’ also represents the narrator’s own ambivalence at his actions and choices; just as he cannot quite accept that he would find myself in such a club at such a time, we as readers are not quite sure how we feel about being so close to the actions he performs. His ‘You’ situates ‘Us’ at the side of repugnance, lust, fears of loneliness, and nausea; later, it will also situate us alongside his sadness and his lost-at-sea uncertainty and despair.
    I would like to provide two examples from the novel of the way that the second person narration does not remain stuck in this ambiguity but slowly develops into pathos.
    In Chapter two Megan asks, “”How’s everything going with you?” You say you can’t complain. “Are you sure?” Megan makes honesty seem like a viable alternative.”
    Here we have both the internalised diminution of the narrators self-worth and opinions, because his remarks do not deserve the formal dignity of quotation marks, as well as the horror of his internalised life and how he has hidden the pain of his wife’s absence. We have it again in a reminiscence of a conversation with his wife: “She brought home prospecti for co-ops and then, when you asked her where the money was going to come from, suggested you could get a loan from your father.” In this small incidence is just one of the many signs, clear from narrative hindsight, that his wife’s love may have been an infatuation with status or adventure, and that once her naivety was shattered their relationship, lacking deeper foundations, could be as well. He was a step on her way to the Big City, but not the final one.

    Ultimately this creates an affect which reminds me of A Hero of Our Time (Lermontov). The Hero of Our Time is “a sum of the aggregate of the vices of his generation”, a mirror held up to a society in which the readers are placed firmly and unequivocally in the role of the protagonist. The protagonist is himself impossible to judge, however guilty, because he is always at one step remove from the action, his defense (and our doubt) the armour of the second person voice. But as the novel develops the efficacy of this armour declines, and in response to this generalised and impersonal ‘You’, the reader might even develop a heightened and liberal sense of individuality, which seems to say: ‘he’ might be ‘us’, but nevertheless ‘we’ are not ‘You.’

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