The City of Glass by Paul Auster is a story filled with layers. Moreover, it is filled with references from other literary works. One of the included works is Genesis. Mr. Stillman Sr. speaks of a “paradisical” language and of Adam and his actions in the Garden of Eden. Auster is able to take this idea and blend it with the image of humpty dumpty to create a message of a “broken” self.
During the conversation between Quinn and Mr. Stillman Sr., Adam’s “paradisical” language. Stillman explains how God is God and his language is the all-knowing; however, Adam is still able to communicate with God. Adam is able to separate reality from the names God creates. This ability to express him is what has brought Adam to his fall. In comparison, Stillman Sr. has denied his son the ability to have this free expression and ultimately takes his ability to be a “real” person. Because of this denial, Stillman Jr., like Quinn, is on a search for his true identity.
Further in the conversation, Stillman Sr. points out that after Adam’s fall the language was broken as well. Adam’s, “ultimate reference point of existence death intervenes not as the result of punishment for an act of disobedience but as a result of this individualization of nature" (105); when Adam had learned to separate reality from its names and the “paradisical” language, God was not fond of this individualism and so he was banished from the Garden of Eden. The banishment from the garden is in sense Adam’s fall. In the fall Adam did not lose any of his physical attributes, rather his sense of identity. He was no longer a resident of the garden and no longer was beside God, whom did not have a “human” presence. This is similar to Quinn and his sense of losing himself.
Adam’s fall is connected with Humpty Dumpty in the sense that they are broken. Humpty Dumpty represents a symbol of the broken “paradisical” language. When Adam had fallen, so did the language connection a language with communication. An image of a broken egg is like the comparison of keeping physical attributes, while still losing one. The most important part o the egg is inside, while the shell is solely an exterior protector. An egg can still survive with out the shell if it is cooked into an omelet. In essence, this is the “sole” of a person. Although while making an omelet, some of the egg may be lost; this is similar to Quinn. Quinn states, “…then I imagined my head cracking open, splattering like the egg that had fallen to the floor of my room… I saw myself in pieces” (43).
When the story ends, Quinn learns how to separate himself from reality and of his imagination. Quinn started off as a whole egg with no cracks. As he pretended to be other people, such as Paul Auster, he begins to break down and become more “lost”. Finally, Quinn does fall and break just as Adam and Humpty Dumpty; however, a cracked egg can still be turned into an omelet. Quinn is able to break himself from his physical shell and use his imagination to “live”.
Overall, Auster uses reference to Adam’s language in Genesis in order to portray what City of Glass is all about—reality and the imagination. Connecting these ideas through the use of an egg and Humpty Dumpty gives a mental image of man finding his true identity. Adam, like Quinn, once lost his identity after a fall, but in the end both regained their identities in one way or another.