Friday, November 4, 2011

Auster vs. Alter

There are many interpretations of Genesis floating around in the world and most of them agree with each other but some don’t. Auster’s interpretation of some parts of Genesis is very different from Alter’s version of Genesis. The translation of the events leading to the birth of language is one of the most prominent differences in the interpretation between Alter and Auster.

In Alter’s interpretation of Genesis, God creates man and brings various things/animals in front of him and the man calls each of them by a word. Thus language was made by man himself by seeing different things around him. God might have brought stuff in front of man’s eyes but God had no hand in the words that were spoken to the man. He did not gift him the words nor tell him what anything was. Thus what we perceive as the first language of the humans was not the God’s language because it was technically the first man himself that made the language. When we look at Auster’s story, when Quinn is reading the senior Peter Stillman’s works, we get Auster point of interpretation of the birth of language. Through the character of Henry Dark, we understand that Auster thinks the best way to find “God’s language” is to lock up the children in dark rooms with no interaction with any stimuli at all for a specific amount of time. The difference here is that in Alter’s version of the actual Genesis, the man was allowed to see what was around him and make opinions and learn from his surroundings before he was asked to make a word for things. In a sense, he was given time to absorb the functions of various creatures before analyzing them within himself and finally putting a word to them. But in Auster’s case, the children are locked in a dark room with no contact with anything except the dark. They cannot form any opinions about the things from the outside world nor can they form a connection between a word and an object because in the dark, they had no use of words to describe anything to themselves. So Auster’s interpretations about the birth of language is incorrect as no language can possibly be thought up in a dark room with no stimuli at all.

That argument of Auster’s false interpretation of the Genesis can be proven from Peter Stillman Jr,’s speech patterns. For the most part Stillman speaks the English that he was taught after his release. But in between, he says random sentences like, “wimble click crimblechaw beloo. Clack clack bedrack. Numb noise, flacklemuch, chewmanna”, that he covers by saying that he was the “only one who understands these words” (Auster, 17).1 When the words aren’t referring to anything but are just made up, then they are no different that baby talk. If one can call the words Peter utters a success of the experiment to find “God’s language”, then every baby can speak the “God’s language” with the chatter that refers to nothing and that no one can understand.

1. Auster, Paul. The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, The Locked Room. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

1 comment:

  1. The first paragraph does nothing.

    The second paragraph does something confusing and something interesting. The interesting thing is that you are making the important point (fleshed out to some extent) that Adam's language is his own, not God's. It's a basic point which should be obvious, but it's very easy to miss. It's interesting and important.

    The confusing, awkward part is that you are taking a *character's* interpretation of Genesis and labeling it as *Auster's*. This is actually important, because Genesis is *not* only addressed through Peter Stillman's theory - it's addressed through Quinn's reading of that theory, and through, e.g., Virginia's response to it. So Stillman != Auster, and therefore it's simplistic and dangerous to regard Auster's reading of Genesis as an "error," especially since you are taking "Adam's language", mostly, and comparing it with Auster/Stillman's reading of the Tower of Babel section - in other words, you're ignoring that there are multiple relevant sections of Genesis, which need to be dealt with together, at least to an extent.

    Another way to address this: it's a little short. You had space to address both Adam's language and Babel, and discuss them both in relationshipo with Auster.