Daniel Quinn


Outer characterization

Daniel Quinn is the main character in Paul Auster’s novel City of Glass. Although at first we are told that Quinn’s identity is “of no great importance” (Chapter 1, 0%), we are then given a detailed characterization that helps us understand who he is.

Quinn is thirty-five years old (Chapter 1, 0%). He currently lives “modestly, in a small New York apartment” (Chapter 1, 0%) on 107th Street (Chapter 5, 0%). Quinn used to be married, but his wife and three-year-old son had died five years before the main events of the novel (Chapter 1, 25%). Quinn’s son was named Peter (Chapter 4, 100%).

While he was married, Quinn published poetry, essays, and translations (Chapter 1, 13%). However, after the death of his wife and son, Quinn started writing mystery novels under the pen name William Wilson. Quinn enjoys reading and is also a baseball fan. He supports the Mets (Chapter 5, 25%).

Inner characterization

Quinn enjoys pretending he is Paul Auster

Quinn seems to have trouble with his own identity and is more comfortable taking on other identities. When Quinn is mistaken for the private detective Paul Auster, he eventually decides to play along and assumes Auster’s identity with surprising ease. 

As Auster, Quinn is confident, competent, and detached. In his first interaction with Virginia Stillman, he shows himself reassuring and professional. He immediately tells her that he has never let anyone down (Chapter 3, 89%) and that he is willing to help. From the start, Quinn admits that he enjoys the role he is playing, as he feels “a sudden surge of pleasure” (Chapter 3, 11%).

As time passes, Quinn gets more and more comfortable with his assumed identity. He does not pause to consider the consequences of his actions, or how far he will be able to take this game. In fact, Quinn tries to justify keeping up the pretense: “imagining himself as Paul Auster had become synonymous in his mind with doing good in the world” (Chapter 7, 14%).

Quinn uses Paul Auster’s identity to escape 

One of the reasons why Quinn decides to pretend that he is Paul Auster, the detective, could be because he is trying to escape his own life. We find out from the start that Quinn experienced a tragedy five years ago when he lost his wife and son, and that changed his life completely. He stopped writing under his own name, he lost his friends, and he seemed to have isolated himself from almost ...

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