In this section of the book (the end of part 3 and through part 4), the narrator’s progression can be viewed through Kawin’s framework for the protagonist of a work of horror. Kawin says that the protagonist “confronts his…own fallibility…as an aspect of confronting the horror object, and either matures or dies” (237). He uses the words “vulnerability” and “culpability” as well, and while I think that the narrator is both vulnerable and partially blameworthy, I would prefer to focus on the idea of error because I think the fact that the narrator erred – whether forgivable or not – is indisputable.
The moment in which the narrator confronts his own fallibility (his desire to own a child and a wife but not to be a father and a husband) as an aspect of confronting the horror object (the squid, and also the bear) is the following moment: p. 163, “After some time the squid began to speak as the bear spoke…saying that there was more to the making of a child – of a family – than just two bodies, than two bodies and an empty set of rooms.” Here, the squid and the bear are the horror object (they can be seen as one because they sound the same as they speak), and the squid explicitly tells the narrator what he has done wrong (his error).
The moment of death is this (also the first indication that maturity will occur): p. 165, “[I]n this dream I saw my life did not end with my death but rather went on…” Although it seems that the narrator’s initial life has ended, he goes on in a new form of life (sometimes squid, sometimes man).
The indications of maturity are these:
p. 170-171, “And how sorely I was tempted…to return to whatever waters…but it was only by choosing the land that I could choose my wife, and so what other choice could I make, what else but to once more become a man.” Earlier in the book, we might have questioned whether the narrator would have made the more trying, difficult choice. Here, he feels drawn to “choose [his] wife,” as if he has no other choice. This is new. Before, in the deep house for example, he chose to turn around – he didn’t choose his wife.
p. 184, “I had been cured of wanting, and as I examined the future of this world I found I no longer craved its ownership.” Earlier in the book, it seemed that ownership drove everything. Now, ownership is not a motivating force for the narrator any longer.
p. 189, “I wondered if I had it in me to end early one of this world’s las things, so that I might go on a little longer.” The narrator used to kill animals and bury them seemingly as a pass-time. Now, he has no food, but he spares an animal.
Through this section, we can see that some of the narrator’s most easily identifiable characteristics (his desire to own, his disregard for and mistreatment of his wife, and his compulsion to murder) have changed. He has matured. And it might have required confrontation with his monster and his flaws, and even death, to bring about this maturity.