Through the use of the character Daniel Quinn, author Paul Auster is arguing against the idea that identity is static and also against the idea that surveillance is perfect. This paper explores the complex life of Quinn by taking a good look at every character that he tries to become. It starts out by speaking about the fake author name that Quinn created to write under, William Wilson. Then it moves to speak about the character of Max Work who Quinn idolizes. Work is everything that Quinn wishes he was and from living through the eyes of Work for so long, Quinn knows how to act like a detective when the time comes for him to impersonate Paul Auster. The final character that Quinn lives through is the before mentioned Auster. He takes on a case pretending he is this man and the experiences he has change his emotional and mental identity very drastically by the end of the novel.
The next section of this paper focuses on how surveillance is never 100% effective. Author Auster illustrates that this is his viewpoint by having Quinn do some surveying of his own. Quinn has problems from the beginning of his detective work when he is trying to follow the elder Peter Stillman around the city. He then goes on a long stakeout where Quinn has the trouble that any person on stakeout would have – not being able to see everything at every second. These are the two most noteworthy instances that are referenced in this paper and point out how surveillance can never be counted on to work.
[...] Now I will describe just how differently Quinn acts when he is pretending to be Paul Auster to contrast how he was in the beginning of the novel to show how the author is arguing that identity changes over time and with the things a person experiences. Even though the character of Quinn sees Auster as an illusion and not a rebirth, he acts like and is affected like this is more than an illusion. During the first day of being Auster, Quinn is completely exhausted and says that he hadn't felt that so tired in years (50). [...]
[...] From what he learns from all of the changes in identity that he goes through, he knows he needs to shed all of the aspects of the identities that are not really needed in order to finally be able to disappear and be at peace with himself. Quinn's end comes with the red notebook, which is fitting since he bought it for the case that ended up leading him to understand the type of identity he wanted to have again. [...]
[...] Quinn is in despair most of the time and not mentally or emotionally strong so I don't think that he could take any of the criticism that he could get if his own name was on the book cover. Quinn does not think that he and Wilson are the same person so this is a great way to protect himself from further hurt. Wilson is merely the “ventriloquist” for Quinn (11). At this certain point, Daniel Quinn's life mimics what the novel “Dreamer” by Charles Johnson says about how identity of a person can look like it's the same when it really isn't. [...]
[...] During the novel he assumes the identity of several fictitious characters, tests out those “possible selves” and in turn starts to become closer to having the very important aspect of personal identity back in his life. Along the way Quinn also does some detective work of his own and starts to realize the downfalls of surveillance. Through the use of the character Daniel Quinn, author Paul Auster is arguing against the idea that identity is static and also against the idea that surveillance is perfect. [...]
[...] Gleason goes on to state that the old OED gives a definition of identity as: sameness of a person or thing at all times or in all circumstances; the condition or fact that a person or thing is itself and not something else” (911). He also gives the OED definition of “Personal Identity: the condition or fact of remaining the same person throughout the various phases of existence; continuity of the personality” (911). Gleason's entire article is showing that these two definitions are completely too narrow and that they can't possibly be correct. [...]
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