A Shifting Self of a Postmodern Detective in City of Glass
The main character in City of the Glass has a split subjectivity and is presented to the readers at the first beginning as having multiple identities.“In the triad of selves that Quinn had become, Wilson served as a kind of ventriloquist.Quinn himself was the dummy, and Work was the animated voice that gave purpose to the enterprise” (Austere, 6).
Quinn publishes under the pseudonym William Wilson and lives through Max Work, the novel hero he creates. William Wilson is only “an invention” that serves as the “bridge” for him to walk into Works detective voice (Austere, 4).
Quinn is solely the puppeteer “dummy’ – an empty husk. His thinking and Interior voice Is substituted by Max Work, who gives life to Quinn In his solitude. As Is written In the novel, “the writer and the detective are interchangeable” (Austere, 8). The “private eye” looks into objects and events in search of ideas, in order to make sense of them, leading to an ultimate truth. For Quinn, the “private eye” holds “a triple meaning” (Austere, 8). Throughout the story, we as readers are engaged in the split of ‘l’ when we look into the case with the three eyes.
One is of an “Investigator”, probably Max Work who discerns details and traces of facts; two is room the lifeless “self” wealth Quinn, who keeps a distance from the outer world; and the last eye from the writer or narrator of the story that appears In the end when the case dissolves. The destabilize of subject challenges the readers, as the detective drifts from one identity to another, we also lost a stable detective eye to scrutinize the case. The imaginary figure Max Work is present in the world of others – the fictive outside world.
For this reason he is more real and powerful than Quinn. “The more Quinn seemed to vanish, the more persistent Work’s presence In that world became” (Austere, 9). HIS vanishing Inclination Is perhaps due to his alienation In actual world. After the death of his loved ones, he is no longer the ambitious part of him that published a number of works. He hides behind his pseudonym to be in touch with his agent, publisher and readers on the surface. Having no friends and family, he “no longer exists for anyone but himself” (Austere, 4).
This isolation of himself from others accounts for his desire to replace a unified Quinn with multiple Identities, since there Is no connection with others that anchors his subjectivity. And afflicted with all the devastating experience and traumatic memory. Max Work, on the other hand, is an “aggressive” and “quick-tongued” (Austere, 9) detective figure whose consciousness Quinn relies on throughout the investigation. Though he has no knowledge of any crime, he attempts to draw relations between events Just like Max would do.
Max embodies a modern detective notion of attaining truth through one’s rationality and consistency, yet Quinn represents a deciphering subject without a coherent self. A classic detective novel hails the power of reason, and a traditional detective’s observation to uncover mysteries is associated with seeking transcendent truth in a modernist perspective. Quinn’s desire to lose himself, or to assume alternative identities are incongruous with a traditional detective, who generally has a coherent and consistent self (Sourpuss, 76). The quest for Peter Stallion Sir. s identity is also an attempt to find Quinn himself, which is revealed in his putting down his initial, Q in his red notebook that records the case. However, indulged in the case, Quinn easily shifts himself into the role of detective “Paul Austere”, an author in the novel mistaken for a detective. “To be Austere meant being a man with no interior, a man with no thoughts”, “If his own inner life had been made inaccessible, hen there was no place for him to retreat to” (Austere, 61). By being Paul Austere, Quinn empties his inner life and takes up the consciousness of another imaginative figure, a role shaped after detective models.
Quinn becomes a mere husk and has nowhere to go back, which shadows his final destiny of disappearing from the scene. Towards the end, the death of Peter Stallion and Quinn’s encounter with the real Paul Austere makes him realize his inability to uncover the truth. He is “nowhere” and “he knew nothing” (Austere, 104), which is the beginning state of being nowhere he desired. This detective story seems a circle returning to the original point, compared to a linear structure of a conventional one with a definite solution.
Without solving the puzzle, Quinn loses himself eventually. Sourpuss wrote that the detective must be a consistent person that enables him to concentrate on the mystery outside of him. Therefore, a degree of ambiguity involved in the detective’s very identity will interfere with his ability to tackle the mystery at hand (76). As this applies to Quinn, a writer-detective who gets lost in the labyrinth in search of his own identity, it explains he failure of the investigation with no solution in the end.