Monday, March 31, 2014

Oh Erasmus

Reading The Voyage of the Narwhal was an unexpected turn for me from the narratives and novel that we have read previously. To be fair, there was still an abundance of similarities connecting all of the stories in terms of the ever-present conflict between rational sense and ambition, and that of selfishness versus selflessness. There was also a period of preparation preceding the adventure, a plan of attack, and the unforeseen effects of nature. Underlying these similarities, however, is the major difference that this is a contrived failure. The story reads with a sense of inevitable doom similar to Into Thin Air, but it was even more obvious to me during the reading experience since The Voyage of the Narwhal was published as fiction. The only protagonist offered is Erasmus, the personification of failure, and the adventure itself might as well be a post-traumatic stress episode of his previous seafaring disaster. It therefore reads very differently from The Eiger Sanction, with its twists and sense of thrill; reading The Voyage of the Narwhal, I turn every page with an almost amused “What’s our sad clown gotten himself into now?” mentality.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with a lot of what Matt says, and I wanted to add that one thing that I think Barrett does particularly well is force the reader into a position of powerlessness within the novel. I really enjoyed the thrill and excitement of the Eiger Sanction, but I found that the reader is so far removed from what is happening that its hard to place yourself within that novel. I felt like more of a witness to the events than a participant. In Barrett's novel, Erasmus's failures were understandable, if not relatable. When Zeke refuses to anyone publish anything for a year after the voyage our anger matches his, and when he finally returns to be rejected by the public the reader sympathizes. I enjoyed both novels, but I think Erasmus's failures allows the reader to relate and empathize with his character more than Hemlock's.