City of Glass

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At the close of the world’s first international conflict, society grappled for understanding in a world that no longer made sense. This desire for order and reason, led to the development of the detective fiction genre and the transformation of “dime novels” into true literary works. Paul Auster takes the conventional elements of the mystery genre, and inverts them completely in his post-modern novel, City of Glass. In this way, Auster uses his work to satirize the conventions of the past and draw attention to the ever-increasing chaos of the modern day. Daniel Quinn, is simply a hermit in a vibrant city, trying to erase all aspects of his previous life. He writes mystery novels for the same reason they were written in the 20’s, because they represent a figment of order that is lacking in the world. Especially in a world that takes the life a young boy who hasn’t seen much. Quinn’s desire to separate himself from who he was before he lost his family, leads him to adopt fragments of his character Max Work into his own personality. “The detective is one who looks, who listens, who moves through the morass of objects and evens in search of the thought, the idea that will pull all these things together and make sense of them. In effect, the writer and the detective are interchangeable” (8). This connection to the fictional world he created, entraps Quinn in the world of the private investigator, as if he willed himself onto the ontological level Work inhabits. His inability to separate his personal life from his “Work” fostered the parasite that sucked the very life out of Quinn, forcing him to find host in a new identity. The traditional private eye embodied in Work is the hard-boiled “tough guy” who has all the keys to solving our problems. Leaving Quinn to be the ultimate puzzle that needs solving. By distorting the traditional convention of the problem solver and turning him into the problem, Auster begins to suggest that nothing in this world is actually...
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