she has seen this one before. I wanted this to read as Tender is the Night, but it fell a bit flat.
“But to be included in Dick Diver’s world for a while was a remarkable experience: people believed he made special reservations about them, recognizing the proud uniqueness of their destinies, buried under the compromises of how many years. He won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect.” Tender is the Night, pg 36
Ralph Messenger is no Dick Diver, but that could be because we are immediately given insight into his intimate consciousness where it is revealed that he is a more realistic character – someone equally likable and disdainful, boring, and predictable.
I did enjoy the ways in which this novel explores some of the surface level discussions of consciousness. One of my favorite moments is Helen’s initial argument of what novelists do. She recites Henry James and Ralph makes snide remarks about the lack of science in the writer’s work, but ultimately caves to the idea “we have to settle for knowing less about consciousness than novelists pretend to know.” pg 44
I’m not sure if Messenger ever is able to present anything more definitive than Helen’s assertion. It is true that the novelist is able to express the idea of consciousness, even if that means expression without definition. We know that we are experiencing character consciousness, but we do not know how. Messenger also suggests to Helen later that our lives are just fictions.
I think what bothered me most in this novel was that there was not a change in definition for either Ralph or Helen. I expected his views of consciousness to change after his diagnosis. I wanted to see him on the verge of dying deciding how, in the end, he would handle his feelings/thoughts. I put the two of them together on purpose. In the fight scene between Carrie and Ralph in which he is coldly describing death to his child, Carrie gets upset and says, “Your trouble is, Messenger, you’re very hot on facing facts in the abstract, but not when they’re physical, in your face.” pg 248
I thought that line was perfect and I wanted to see if there was some character growth after his illness. It seems just to have scared him into fidelity.
My final complaint about this novel is the experimental devices. While I enjoyed the variety of recordings, narration, and journal, I found them to be too similar. One of the interesting discussions in consciousness is one of perception. In this novel, everyones self perception was spot on with the judgements of others of them.