Tag Archives: City of Glass

Narrative Voice in “City of Glass”

Narrative voice in both the comic adaptation of Paul Auster’s mystery novel City of Glass and the text in its original form plays a crucial role that, if altered, would significantly alter the reader’s interpretation of the storyline itself.

The constant shifts in the identity of main character Quinn add a dynamic aspect that moves the reader through the plot. In the classic format of the murder mystery, the author, detective, and reader move through plot together, bound by a mutually accepted set of rules. In City of Glass, the author is represented by both Paul Auster himself and Quinn under his professional pseudonym, William Wilson; the detective is represented by both Quinn himself and his recurring character Max Work; and we as readers try our best to follow the story as it’s laid before us. The detective acts as interpreter of events, but what we as readers glean from a text is significantly affected when an objective author becomes an unreliable narrator and, furthermore, a fractured self.

As Quinn becomes increasingly consumed by his quest to live out the fantasies of his work and protect client Peter Stillman Jr., he begins to lose grip on a single objective truth and we as readers are pulled down with him. By the end of the novel, Quinn has become a shell of his former self, devoid of his former drive and sensibility. In the graphic novel adapted by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli,  the last panels of the story feature Quinn in solitude, naked and surrounded by darkness. As he begins his descent, we see Quinn in a fetal position completely embraced by darkness (129), an image that could almost be interpreted as a rebirth and a cyclical connection to Stillman’s experiences as mentioned prior.

How does Quinn’s complex relationship with both his work and his own identity change our interpretation of the novel as a whole?