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The Transience of Identity and the Unpredictability of Surveillance in City of Glass

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  1. Abstract
  2. Illustrating Auster's argument
  3. The idea that identity can change
  4. Quinn's liking of detective stories
  5. Quinn and William Wilson
  6. Quinn's personal/mental/emotional identity
  7. The first call Quinn receives
  8. The events that can change a person's emotional and psychological identity
  9. The loss of his apartment
  10. The way Quinn has to survey Stillman
  11. Conclusion
  12. Works cited

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. [...]

[...] All of these feelings show that from being Auster, Quinn has become much stronger in his mental and emotional identity and also that his identity has not stayed the same throughout this time period. Quinn never would have believed in fate when he was still writing as William Wilson, but he does now. He feels that fate is the reason that he can't break it off with the Stillman's so he decides to continue on with the case anyways. Thanks to all that Quinn has been through, he is starting to actually think for himself and even decides to go against what Max Work would have done in this situation (171). [...]

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