As I read “Westward The Course of Empire Takes Its Way” I can’t help but to think that I have reached point where I want to choke the narrator. Why you may ask? Simply, the frustration I have for all his narrator-reader interaction moments.
Unlike the past narrators of the other David Foster Wallace works we have read so far, the omniscient-third person narrator of this story chooses to interact with the reader. So as he narrates the story, he also chooses to stop and give the reader a comment about what he has just said. And the frustrating part? He keeps devaluating what he has just said. For example, after giving the reader background for how Drew-Lynn Eberhardt and Mark Nechtr came together he say, “OK true, that was all both too quick and too slow, for background–both intrusive and sketchy. But please, whether your imagination’s engaged or not, please just acknowledge the propositions, is all. Because time is severely limited, and whatever might be important lies ahead…” (Wallace 238). This makes the reader feel like what he just read was a waste of time and the frustration starts to grow. As the narration of their love affair continues, we get snippets of other facts. Such as point about people arriving to the civil affair trough different methods of transportation. “By the way, not too much of this is important either. But it’s true…” (245). Another moment where the reader feels maybe this is just a waste of time.
The narration of the story itself also feels a little more importunate than the typical narrator. It’s a lot more casual and lines like “to avoid misunderstanding or prejudice, J.D. is sad, but not usually this bitter” (246) which shows the reader that there is a significant closeness of the narrator to the characters of the story, almost as if he somehow involved with them. (I wish to add that I don’t refer to the narrator as “he” in the male sense since you can’t tell whom the narrator is up to this point.)
This made me think of the narration we spoke of in The Broom of the System and a point that was brought up about the narrator and his sneakiness. You get that sense of feeling from this narrator too because he seems so involved within the characters lives, and with the reader as well. In a way it works in getting the reader more involved in the story because you feel a casualness, like a friend is telling you a story. But the fact is, that the narrator seems fundamentally involved. Such as that last quote I mentioned, it seems that the narrator has opinions and biases about what is occurring in the story and these directs at the reader are his way of letting them out. Ideas?