Structure

The novel City of Glass by Paul Auster is the first volume in a series of loosely-connected novels called The New York Trilogy. The novel follows a chronological plot structure and takes place over the course of several months.

City of Glass is divided into 13 chapters of varying lengths. Chapter 8 also presents a map of the area where Stillman walks every day (Chapter 8, 57%) and a series of illustrations, as Quinn tries to find a pattern in the way Stillman covers this area each day (Chapter 8, 64%-79). Such illustrations are often found in mystery stories as they offer a visual piece of the puzzle which the reader can also work to solve.

The story begins in medias res when the main character receives an unexpected phone call in the middle of the night:

It was the wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. Much later, when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance. But that was much later. In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences. (Chapter 1, 0%)

This beginning draws the reader in, as the notion of an unexpected phone call that starts an inevitable chain of events is intriguing. The mention of the main character reflecting on the event “much later” could be considered to foreshadow that things might end badly. 

It is interesting to note that we do not know who the main character is from the first paragraph, as the narrative simply refers to him as “he”. However, in the sec...

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