Author: Hana

Double-Cultured Identity

What I find most interesting about the protagonist of the novel is the cohesiveness of his personality despite the extreme duality of his identity. He constantly brings up how he juggles to separate worlds, as a spy, a half-Vietnamese and half-French, and as an advisor that deals with two classes of people. These are seen in his reflections of himself, as he identifies himself as separate and individual from everyone, and in his reactions to every day events that differ from other characters. The latter phenomenon can be seen when he and the General are attacked by women in the camp at Los Angeles. While the General is horrified at this new experience, the protagonist, being the figure that has managed all the hands-on work of dealing with locals, remains relatively calm. The effect is a disturbing contradiction between his confidence in his social and political role, and the ever-changing inner dialogue that reflects on his extreme situations.

Self-Awareness in “Blade Runner”

Analyzing characters in this film is slightly difficult, as the whole story is centered around who (and what) should be considered as “characters” in the sense of being human, and which should be dehumanized to the level of being able to kill (or retire) them. I find it interesting that the Voigt-Kampff test used on replicants relies on identifying emotions that humans can relate to. I found this odd, as being aware of the emotions you are expected to produce in itself hinders producing those emotions, and that a dichotomy is created between being emotional and rational that essentially defines your status. We see this in the character of Rachael, who is made aware of the state of her memories and emotions. She is able to withstand the test for much longer duration due to her conviction that she is human, and produce the same feelings. It leads me to question whether being able to have emotions is an adequate way of distinguishing replicants from humans, as the test can only see the results of such emotions and not the process of producing them. Ultimately, I think that the process of trying to systematize emotions is contradictory, and creates an interesting-yet subjective- basis for the entire plot of the movie.

Relating to Others: A Form of Self-Expression

A main technique used by the narrator, Claudia,  in telling her own story and establishing her identity is the relation to and contrast with other characters. She makes herself singular by contrasting her ideas on beauty, race, and self-worth with the adults and children around her, and establishes a perspective of alienated and disdainful observations from the beginning. At times her tone borders on contempt, at others simply observational- throughout it all however, it is interesting to see how she categorizes her own feelings based on the reactions that those around her have. Her articulations of this very human and relatable process are more stylized, and result in an inner world of complex turmoil that do not reflect outwardly. Her solitude is reflected in her observation of others, as she focuses on points others may not: “Each member of the family in his own cell of consciousness… collecting fragments of experience here, pieces of information there. From the tiny impressions gleaned from one another, they created a sense of belonging and tried to make do with the way they found each other.” (34) While this is reminiscent of Allison’s musings in Fun Home, this quote holds a longing tone that shows a mindset that is attempting to assimilate rather than begrudge. Overall, the structure in which these thoughts are set up allow room for drastic development.

Self-awareness as an aspect of character

Perhaps due to the autobiographical aspect of this novel, Alison Bechdel’s persona in the story is vastly more introspective and self-aware than the characters we have read about so far. This aspect of her personality is, most interestingly, revealed best through her recounting of her father. By drawing parallels and contrasts between her father’s grand fictionalization of himself and her own self-analysis, she is able to portray her own identity through a mixture of self-mockery and retrospective techniques. This is a different approach to the narrative form that many fictional characters take, as they tell their stories through largely single perspective, in-the-moment narration. A prominent example is the linkage between her and her father’s tendency to blur the lines between reality and fiction. “Such a suspense of the imaginary in the real was, after all, my father’s stock in trade.” (65) This is soon followed by, “I employ these allusions to James and Fitzgerald not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms.” (67)  While this constant distancing from her actions does produce the detached attitude Bechdel is undoubtedly attempting to produce, it also creates a third-party role in which the protagonist becomes a spectator of the story that she is a part of.

The question that comes out of this, therefore, is whether being hyper-self-aware and retaining the ability to detach oneself from a plot for the purpose of analyzing events should be one of the criterion of being a fictional character. I believe that this particular tool works well for this story, as the high emotional points can otherwise easily swallow the reader. Bechdel’s persona as a result of this technique is presented with a certain amount of depth and internalization that may have been lost in an event-driven style of narration. However, I do not think that this is an essential or the only one to narrate a story. In plots that demand complete audience absorption and an involved first-person perspective, this technique would not be the only way to introduce introspectiveness and self-awareness.

Styles of self-narrative

What first struck me about the first four chapters of “The Crying of Lot 49” is the disconnected aspect of the protagonist’s narration in relation to the reality of her actions. Oedipa’s method of framing her thoughts, actions, and identity is both relational and highly stylized. An example is her description of her relationship with Pierce Inverarity, as she takes on a, “Rapunzel-like role of a pensive girl… looking for somebody to say hey, let down your hair. He’d slipped the lock on her tower door and come up the conchlike stairs…” (10) This curious portrayal not only creates a metaphor for the two characters’ relationship, but directly provides the realities of everyday life with a magical and dream-like quality. It is interesting to draw links between this style of identification and narration with the character’s internal consciousness, as we slowly begin to get a sense of how she receives events with a certain numbness and vague romanticization. While this is a common and fundamental technique that we first see in a story, it can have the most impact as the readers take on the character’s eyes and the rest of the narrative is shaped by a single perspective.



RESPONSE: “Self-awareness in The Crying of Lot 49”

This post closely links with my point, and provides yet another example of how Oedipa’s self-narrative deviates from, for example, a traditionally sequential and descriptive narrative style. It seems very accurate to say that there are two worlds, leaning towards either reality or fiction, that seem to increasingly blur together. While it is difficult to quantify this effect, the distance we feel from the character’s internal thoughts is undeniable. One question to keep in mind, then, is to what extent the events of the story produce this phenomenon, or whether the protagonist’s personality makes her surrounding environment seem disconnected and bizarre.

Identification of self vs. larger organization (Brotherhood)

Amidst the various aspects of development that we see the narrator experience throughout the novel, one very interesting one is his relation to and identification with the entities surrounding him. Due to the fact that we are introduced to the character as a lone, almost disembodied figure, we are provided with the sense that the story is inevitably headed in the direction of some type of climactic future that is vastly different from the character’s past. Beginning with his loyalty and absolute determination to the university and moving to his devotion to the Brotherhood, we see a range of commitment that differs in both strength and underlying motive. I am most interested in this how these stages seem to affect the narrator’s situational behavior, such as his encounter with mistakenly calling two strangers in a bar “Brothers”. After being confronted by the two men, he confusedly thinks, “They didn’t sound drunk and I had said nothing to offend, and I was certain that they knew who I was. What was it?” (424) While this is not the first form of antagonism the narrator has faced, the disjointedness of the situation, in which he had become so far removed from individuals outside of the Brotherhood, demonstrates the skillful degree to which he can adapt to and identify with a group. Moving forward with the story, I would like to explore how this cyclic repetition of identifying with a larger mass and then breaking off with them provides the character’s personality depth and leads to his ultimate lone situation.

Power Dynamics: Power as established through self-identification

As we are presented with an introduction and background to the narrator in the first four chapters of the book, what I found most intriguing were the different status images that were presented. While the narrator describes events and facts in his life- such as his living conditions and being forced to fight senselessly- that suggest a total lack of control or dignity, his constant inner dialogue is founded on a basis of superiority. He holds steadfast value in his ability to articulate and identify himself as an educated person, and establishes a strict hierarchy which he acts upon. “…I felt that only these men could judge truly my ability, and now this stupid clown was ruining my chances.” (Pg. 25) The making of this personal standard, however, is unseen by the readers, and we do not immediately see the connection made between his situational positions of power. This is ultimately a purposeful yet extremely delicate technique that dictates the transparency of the character’s internalizations, and can result in either absolute empathy or extreme isolation between the narrator and a reader depending on the latter’s ability to relate to the system of logic present in the story.