Outer characterization

Professor Peter Stillman is an important character in the novel City of Glass by Paul Auster. He comes from a wealthy and notable family from Boston, whose members held influential positions in the community in the 19th century, such as “several governors (…) a number of Episcopal bishops, ambassadors, a Harvard president” (Chapter 3, 22%).

Stillman attended Harvard university “like everyone else in the family” (Chapter 33%) and studied philosophy and religion. After graduating, he began teaching in the religion department at Colombia (Chapter 3, 33%). 

Stillman married and had a son whom he also named Peter. His wife died when Peter was two. When it was discovered that he was holding his son confined to a room, he was arrested and then sent to a mental institution, where he spent 13 years of his life. When he leaves the mental institution and returns to New York, he stays at the Hotel Harmony, a “fleabag for down-and-outs” (Chapter 7, 100%).

When Quinn inspects the photograph that shows what Stillman looked like 20 years back, he notices that Stillman looks “benign, if not downright pleasant” (Chapter 5, 75%) with a “hint of tenderness around the mouth” (Chapter 5, 75%). This is an unexpected description and does not match the image the readers have probably formed of Stillman after they learned about the terrible things Stillman did to his son.

We are also given a description of how Stillman looks now, when Quinn sees him at Grand Central Station:

His hair was white, and it laid on his head uncombed, sticking out here and there in tufts. He was tall, thin, without question past sixty, somewhat stooped (…). The expression on his face seemed placid, midway between a daze and thoughtfulness (…). He seemed to be moving with effort… (Chapter 7, 71%)

The description suggests that the stay in the mental institution has changed and affected Stillman. It is ...

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