Language

Style of writing

The language in the novel City of Glass by Paul Auster is mostly formal. The author uses a complex vocabulary and long sentences. For instance: “The train pulled into the station and Quinn felt the noise of it shoot through his body: a random, hectic din that seemed to join with his pulse, pumping his blood in raucous spurts.” (Chapter 7, 57%). Since the story mostly follows Quinn’s perspective, this way of talking also reflects Quinn’s intellectual background.

Dialogue plays a very important part in the novel, as the way characters talk reveals a lot about who they are. Quinn, for example, when he takes on the role of Paul Auster, talks like the typical, competent detective. His words and manner are detached and professional, to the point that they might be considered clichéd. For example:

‘Whatever I do or do not understand,’ he said, ‘is probably beside the point. You’ve hired me to do a job, and the sooner I get on with it the better. From what I can gather, the case is urgent (…). The important thing is that I’m willing to help. I think you should take it for what it’s worth.’ (Chapter 3, 67%)

This makes Quinn sound self-assured and experienced, but it also sounds slightly artificial, reminding the readers that Quinn is just playing a role.

Virginia Stillman also speaks in a formal, restrained manner. This is in contrast with the unrestrained, passionate kiss she gives Quinn at the end of their meeting (Chapter 3, 100%).

Peter Stillman has an unusual way of expressing himself. His vocabulary consists of made-up words, such as: “ ‘Wimble click crumblechaw beloo” (Chapter 2, 50%), interjections: “ ‘boom boom boom’ ”(Chapter 2, 40%), childish words, for example “nincompoop” (Chapter 2, 40%), and complex expressions, such as: “ ‘Such is my weeping and wailing.’ ” (Chapter 2, 50%). Peter’s vocabulary reflects his fractured state of mind, pointing out at the same time that he learned to speak late in life, which is why he now sounds so artificial.

When talking about his trauma, Peter refers to himself in the third person, for example as “Little Peter” (Chapter 2, 60%). This could be an attempt for him to distance himself from what he has experienced as a way of coping. It also hints at a loss of identity and willing rejection of who he is.

Peter also refers to his father as “the father” (Chapter 2, 60%), or “Peter’s father” (Chapter 2, 50%), never using the first person possessive my father. Again, this is probably a way for Peter to separate himself from his abuse and from the person that caused it.

Stillman, Peter’s father, also has an unusual way of expressing himself. He is obsessed with rhymes and idioms. When he first meets Quinn, Stillman searches for words that rhyme with his name (Chapter 9, 74%). 

Stillman also uses alliterations which he associated with Quinn’s name: “ ‘I see many possibilities for this word, this Quinn, this…quintessence…of quiddity. Quick for example. And quill. And quack. And quirk.’ ” (Chapter 9, 74%). This reflects Stillman’s obsession with language and how important words are to him.

Repetition is often used in the novel, especially during Peter’s long monologue. He often repeats “ ‘I am Peter Stillman.’ ” (Chapter 2, 60%), only to add immediately afterward “ ‘That is not my real name.’ ” (Chapter 2, 60%). This is yet another example of Peter rejecting his identity. One reason for this could be that he shares the name with his father, and Peter does not wish to be associated with his abuser in such a manner.

Quinn also uses the phrase “ ‘That is not my real name’ ” (Chapter 5, 100%) when he writes in his diary...

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