The Narrator

“But we do not weep at your untimely death, Swede; you who were unchained from your body and freed as from an Egypt of the soul.  It is we who are doomed, and you who are released, we who, spirit-corpses, toil beneath the living, brandishing our phantom-knives at plethoras of nothing, and you who see the Earth from above, clenched and pulsing, like a sparrow’s heart” (17).

In the last section of reading, there have been several moments where the narrator’s “we” reoccurs, prompting me to reexamine other moments in the novel where the “we” also stood out.  The prologue, a section we haven’t discussed much in class, is filled with the narrator’s “we,” and the last paragraph of this section sheds light on the role of “we” in the novel.

What is interesting to me about the usage of “we” in this excerpt is that the narrator seems to be envious of Morgan’s mother, who dies giving birth to him.  It is confirmed later in the text (in the moment described in Kelsey’s blog post, as well as on page 91, line 45) that the “we” is the voice of citizens probably of a similar socioeconomic status to the Giggs.  Her death marks the end of something great and the beginning of something terrible, leaving the living “doomed.”  However, this event also occurs during the time of the parade celebrating the end of the war with Hungary.  What is also interesting is that the birds do not arrive for another seventeen years (18), meaning that Morgan’s birth marks something greater than his bird abilities — his existence is what dooms them.  The narrator’s class is not persecuted, at least not in the way Morgan, Zvominir, and the Gypsies are, so that the “we” feels doomed suggests that a) Morgan is the agent of doom, at least in some capacity, and/or that b) the entire narrative is skewed by the “we” in a significant way, as it is written by a group who sees themselves as victims.  

This passage is also rich with other ideas we’ve been discussing, such as: the idea of “spirit-corpses” (bodies with consciousness but without life) relating to 9/11 and the “phantom-knives” aimed “at plethoras of nothing” relating to the problem of the unknown and misinformation.


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