The Stowaway by Julian Barnes

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February 11, 2008

“The Stowaway” is a revolutionary story that presents a unique outlook on the age-old tale of Noah’s Ark. Told from the viewpoint of a bold, outspoken woodworm that sneaks onto the ship, the story defies the traditional telling of the classic flood story. Rather, the woodworm relates unheard of insight on the arduous trip within the ark, the humorous animals he experienced the journey with, and the untrue details that characterize the biblical story. However, the most remarkable information the woodworm includes in the story involves the character of Noah himself. In “The Stowaway,” Julian Barnes uses the voice of the woodworm to depict the character of Noah as a depraved individual.
The woodworm brings to our attention Noah’s blind arrogance very early in the story. Noah made decisions and would not change his position even when it was brought to his attention that there were other points of view that might be better than his. As the text of the story itself says, “Animals of a speculative bent began to propound rival selection principals, based on beast size or utility rather than mere number; but Noah loftily refused to negotiate. He was a man who had his little theories, and he didn’t want anyone else’s”. (Barnes 8) This demonstrates the woodworm’s dislike for Noah’s lack of consideration of other’s feelings. Noah made up his mind about how he was going to select the animals for the ark. He would not consider alternative selection criteria. He refused to listen to the pleas of the animals to reconsider his decision, believing that his methods were best. This shows Noah’s flaw of egocentrism.
Another flaw that the woodworm recognizes in the character of Noah is his extreme abusiveness towards the animals on the ark. The text itself says:
“I don’t know how best to break this to you, but Noah was not a nice man. I realize this idea is embarrassing, since you are all descending from him: still, there it is. He was a monster, a



Cited: Barnes, Julian. “The Stowaway.” The History Of The World in 101/2 Chapters. New York: Vintage House, 1989. 1-30.

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