Narrator and point of view


At first glance, the novel City of Glass by Paul Auster seems to use mainly a third-person narrator. The narrator follows the perspective of the main character, Daniel Quinn. The readers, then, know only what Quinn knows. Therefore, the narrator is limited.

The narrator offers detailed insights into Quinn’s thoughts and feelings:

Quinn had often imagined this situation: the sudden, unexpected pleasure of encountering one of his readers. He had even imagined the conversation that would follow: he, suavely diffident as the stranger praised the book, and then, with great reluctance and modesty, agreeing to autograph the title page, ‘since you insist’. But now that the scene was taking place, he felt quite disappointed, even angry. He did not like the girl sitting next to him, and it offended him that she should be casually skimming the pages that had cost him so much effort. (Chapter 7, 43%)

The readers, therefore, know Quinn’s thoughts and dreams, as well as his opinions of the people around him, like in the example above. In this way, the narrator helps them get to know the main character better and understand some of his motivations.

Moreover, while the narrator is following Quinn’s point of view, the events seem to be told in retrospect. Even from the start, there are hints that Quinn is looking back on past events that had a great impact on his life. 

When Quinn first receives the call asking for Paul Auster, we are told that “Much later, when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance.” (Chapter 1, 0%). Also, in the scene when Quinn admits to himself t...

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