Uploaded by Rosario Garcia Mata

High Rise and City of Glass

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UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL DE MAR DEL PLATA
DEPARTAMENTO DE LENGUAS MODERNAS
LITERATURA CONTEMPORÁNEA DE INGLATERRA Y EEUU
Name: Maria del Rosario García-Mata (Mat. # 1150/00)
TP #3
Part 1: High Rise and City of Glass
1. A similar technique used by J.G. Ballard and Paul Auster is the estrangement of settings. This
technique involves desfamiliarizing the familiar. These two authors succeed in making what is
familiar seem unknown, strange and even nightmarish however, they use estrangement in
different ways. In High Rise it is the building, the setting itself which becomes estranged. The
place the characters have chosen to live in peacefully becomes a battlefield:
A new social type was being created by the apartment building, cool, unemotional personality
impervious to the psychological pressures of high rise life, with minimal needs of privacy, who
thrived like an advanced species of machine in the neutral atmosphere. (page 35)
Paul Auster uses this technique of estrangement in a different way in City of Glass. In this novel,
the estrangement runs parallel to the characters’ dissolution of identity. It is the urban context,
the setting, that fosters and enhances this dissolution.
Now, as he looked at himself in the shop mirror, he was neither shocked nor disappointed. He had
no feeling about it all, for the fact was that he did not recognize the person he saw there as himself
(...) Feature by feature, he studied the face in front of him and slowly began to notice that this
person bore a certain resemblance to the man he had always thought of as himself. (pages 142,
143)
After living in the alley, Daniel Quinn no longer recognizes himself in the mirror, he does not
know who he is anymore. This fact represents the ultimate loss of identity. Furthermore, Daniel’s
lack of identity is related to the process of becoming ghosts, people who are invisible for society.
This process can only take place in an urban context such as New York city, where anyone can
pass unnoticed.
2) Both High Rise and City of Glass deal with the theme of identity. In these novels, the
characters’ identities are dissolved. Ballard’s characters lack unique identity. In High Rise,
characters are immeresed in a world which progressively erases their individuality as human
beings. Thus, characters become dehumanized. Moreover, not only do character lose their
individuality, but they also lose their human quality, they become more and more primitive until
they are reduced to behaving like animals. In City of Glass, the theme of identity can be
exemplified through the ‘doppelganger’ motif. This motif shows the dissemination of the
subject. The multiplicity of doubles in the novel creates multiple identities which lead to the
characters’ loss of identity. Throughout the novel, Daniel Quinn becomes Paul Auster, William
Wilson, Max Work, Henry Dark and Peter Stillman. In the end, Daniel Quinn fails to recognize
himself, a fact that exemplifies his ultimate loss of identity. Moreover, he has lost his identity
and so becomes different persons in different situations. Daniel Quinn is aware of his lack of
unified identity and accounts for this by quoting Beaudelaire in his red notebook:
Beaudelaire: Il me semble que je serais toujours bien là où je ne suis pas. In other words: It seems
to me that I will always be happy in the place where I am not. Or, more bluntly: Wherever I am not
is the place where I am myself (...) (page 132)
Part II: Lulu on the Bridge and City of Glass
b) The motif of the “locked room” is recurrent in Auster’s works. In each of his works, though,
there are different causes why the characters are locked. Both in the novel and in the movie, the
locked room is a symbol of isolation and loneliness since the characters are mentally and
physically trapped/ In City of Glass, two instances of “locked rooms” are worthwhile
mentioning. First, Peter Stillman is locked by his father who wants to carry out an experiment
concerning language. In this way, the child has no possibility to communicate and lives his
childhood in isolation. Second, Daniel Quinn locks himself in a room. However, Daniel’s
locking is different from Peter’s because Daniel voluntarily decides to trap himself. He does so
in his desire to disappear because he cannot find meaning in his life. In Lulu on the Bridge, Izzy
is forced into a room as a prisoner; he is not only physically trapped and isolated but he is also
forced to bring back his long forgotten memories from the past. Finally, even though all these
characters –from Lulu on the Bridge and from City of Glass- are locked, only Izzy desires
freedom. Peter Stillman does not know what freedom is, and Daniel Quinn cannot live in
freedom and voluntarily decides to live without it.
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