Roy’s Writing Style as a Device

Pappachi’s Moth has to be one of my favorite chapters in this novel. The way Roy has the omniscient narrator speak in the voices of each character is something I’ve never read before.

For example, there is a great sort of childlike wonder is the way Estha and Rahel view the world at this time in the book. One of my favorite sentences in this chapter is found on page 37: “Rahel’s new teeth were waiting inside her gums, like words in a pen”. It’s so like a little kid to make up an analogy to help explain away a concept. And to a kid, it makes sense. Words come from pens, that’s how you see them. They must be stuck inside there if they’re able to come out through the top. You can’t see them, but they’re there. Like new teeth in your mouth.

Or, later in the novel, when the kids decide to read everything backwards. It’s the kind of high effort-low reward activity that I think all of us used to do as kids. Roy has such an attention to detail to how children act in the book. At a deeper level, it’s not just their actions, but she writes the methods behind them. She does this masterfully, sometimes not even explicitly stating what they mean; you only get the full picture if you take a step back while reading.

Take “zebra crossing”. At first glance, you might think it is a crossing for zebras. But Roy doesn’t want you to think like that. You have to be with Rahel and Estha. It’s a crosswalk, striped black and white like a zebra.

Roy utilizes this technique to envelope the reader in the kids’ perspective. I’ve never seen it done before and I can’t stop appreciating it.

“I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore”

Lucy Dacus communicates a very simple plea in her 2016 single. She wants to be someone else. From what the listener can glean from the almost 3 minute song, Dacus wants to change her role in the classic friend group structure. She’s currently the “funny one” but has seen that that causes more harm than good. Something I noticed off the bat from just reading the lyrics is how simplistic the syntax is. I’ve come to admire that in a way I hadn’t before. By choosing short, snappy phrases, the reader can sense a level of desperation in the author’s tone without ever hearing the song itself. To read the song in its entirety: click here.

The third verse starts: “I don’t want the joke to be on me”. In a similar vein, the bridge begins with “Try not to laugh”. These short sentences express to the audience of her friends that she’s being serious, she’s begging to be a person, not a one dimensional prop to be used for others’ enjoyment.

The second verse is her offering another position for herself:

“I don’t wanna be funny anymore
I got a too short skirt, maybe I can be the cute one
Is there room in the band? I don’t need to be the front man
If not, then I’ll be the biggest fan”

The line ‘I don’t need to be the front man’ shows, at a deeper level, she just wants to be included, it doesn’t matter her supposed rank in the hierarchy.

As someone who’s had trouble in larger groups of friends, I relate to this song. I believe that anyone who’s struggled with how they fit in can find themselves in this song.

Hamid’s Style of Writing and How, Really, It’s Much Different Than What We’re Accustomed to, and That Adds to the Story As a Whole, Specifically, His Use of Overly Long Sentences to Stress a Point and Keep Us Engaged.

I loved Exit West. I think the way Hamid writes adds another layer of engagement to this story because he keeps us tethered to his characters and their thoughts. Had he ended his narration with short, choppy sentences, it wouldn’t have felt as free flowing. It’s almost a type of third person stream of consciousness, which is unlike anything I’ve read before.

In terms of keeping the reader engaged, the tiny voice in our heads that reads is out of breath by the time it stumbles upon a period. We have to keep reading because the sentence hasn’t finished yet. Even when that sentence is a page long, we naturally want to finish it because the thought it incomplete.

Many times, we confuse simplicity with quality. The simpler something is, the better and more profound it can be. One of Hamid’s sentences struck me hard:

Saeed was grateful for Nadia’s presence, for the way in which she altered the silences that descended on the apartment, not necessarily filling them with words, but making them less bleak in their muteness

(82).

That sentence is one of his shorter examples, yet it is still just as profound. He manages to clarify himself before the reader has time to object in “not necessarily” as if he is speaking this to us and can see our face change as if to speak and he corrects himself before we can get a word in.

I could go on forever about Hamid’s style but I’ll wrap it up here before I end up writing a page long sentence.

Meursault and Matthew: An Examination of how Existentialism Varies Between The Stranger and Trust

Meursault seems to care about no one but himself and nothing but his physical needs. I will argue that Matthew is a direct foil for Meursault. 

Matthew loves Marie and fixing radios. He is also passionate in the inverse: he hates his dad and fixing televisions. Yet Matthew is still an existentialist. He makes rash decisions like inviting Marie into his home, and has a blase attitude about death by carrying around a hand grenade “just in case”. As we’ve seen in The Stranger, Meursault holds little value to marriage, expressing to Marie that he would marry any other woman who asked. Matthew, on the other hand, outright proposes to Marie several times, even conceding that he loves her by agreeing that respect, admiration, and trust equal love. 

Had Meursault been at the kitchen table with Trust-Marie’s mother, he would have agreed that he probably would’ve gone for Peg since she’s prettier. I’m a bit worried about Meursault having access to a hand grenade though, so let’s journey away from this plot-crossing. 

I would say that Meursault’s existentialism is “every man for himself” whereas Matthew’s is based more on living how he wants to live by picking and choosing which parts of society he wants to live by. 

Narrative Focus in “Cariboo Cafe” and “The Elephant Vanishes”

In ‘The Elephant Vanishes’, the reader encounters a narrator obsessed with a problem he can’t solve. An elephant has disappeared, along with its keeper. However, the keeper quickly fades from the forefront of the story and the elephant seems to be the only one missing. In ‘Cariboo Cafe’, the last narrator essentially kidnaps Macky and Sonya, but Macky is her only focus. Sonya is so far removed from the situation that she’s only referred to as “the young girl”.

  1. Sonya is to Macky what the Keeper is to the Elephant.
  2. Both narrators are kidnappers.

Let’s start with the latter. In ‘The Elephant Vanishes’, the narrator treats the disappearance as something only he cares about. The story has permeated every aspect of his life. This obsessive nature blinds him to reality. However, we as the reader barely know the reality. The narrator tells us that the disappearance is his and only his problem. To some extent, he has “kidnapped” the elephant and its keeper, denying the response of the officials and presenting his own theories. In ‘Cariboo Cafe’ the opposite structure creates a similar issue. We have multiple narrators/perspectives on the story at hand, yet there’s much still implied. At the end, the final woman has the same obsessive blinders on.

The boy she found must be her son. The elephant must have shrunk down.

Returning to my comparison, Sonya is the keeper because she is not the focus of the narrator, but is crucial to the matter at hand. The keeper looks different in comparison to the elephant, so the elephant must have shrunk. Sonya was there with Macky, her brother, yet she is not the narrator’s daughter. Macky is the elephant because he is a mystery to many. To the cafe owner, he is reminded of his own son, just as the woman from ‘Elephant’ shared a sort of excitement about the mystery.

As a reader, we should be vigilant to the narrator’s priorities as it can often tell us a lot about the characters.