The Instruction Manual

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Have you ever read an instruction manual on how to climb a staircase? This may seem absurd as climbing a staircase is such a common event that we take for granted. But Julio Cortazar has written ‘Instruction on How to Climb a Staircase’ and ‘Instructions on How to Wind a Watch’ to present us with a new way of looking at the intricacies of everyday life. The excerpt from ‘The Instruction Manual’ by Julio Cortazar can be read from many different perspectives. First, we can read it as a reminder of how everyday events and objects which we take for granted are in fact incredibly complex. This in turn functions to raise our awareness of the complexity of humans, encouraging us to view humans with admiration and wonder. Second, we can read the story as drawing our attention to the way in which we humans can sometimes allow the possession of material goods to govern our lives. Third, we can read it as a commentary on the manner in which time can consume us and lead us to be obsessed with it. Fourth, we can read it as a reminder of the omnipresence of death and the need to accept death as an integral aspect of human life.

From one perspective, this excerpt can be read as a representation of the complexity of everyday life and the human mind. The first part of this excerpt, ‘Instructions on How to Climb a Staircase’, is written in a formal style, similar to an instruction manual, using mathematical language, such as “right angle”, “parallel” and “perpendicular”, thus de-familiarising the daily event of climbing a staircase and presenting a new perspective to the reader. The use of second person point of view allows the reader to directly follow through the ‘instructions’ as if they themselves are climbing the stairs, and thinking the thoughts the writer is putting into their heads. This further de-familiarises the event of climbing a staircase, as it seems to be the reader who requires these instructions. The writer’s descriptions also support this idea, as they depict...
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