In the Lake of the Woods

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of In the Lake of the Woods published in 1995.
Chapter 2 Quotes

He didn’t talk much. Even his wife I don’t think she knew the first damn thing about him … well, about any of it. The man just kept everything buried.

Related Characters: Anthony “Tony” L. Carbo (speaker), John Herman Wade
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel alternates between chapters narrated from single characters' perspective and chapters like this one, which consist of pieces of "evidence" culled from interviews with the characters, other books, and real-life historical events. Here, Anthony Carbo, John Wade's campaign manager, describes John's personality: John was an extremely private man, to the point where even John's own wife didn't feel that she knew who he was. And because it's still early in the novel, we the readers don't know any more about John than Anthony does.

The quotation establishes the true "mystery" of In the Lake of the Woods. The novel appears to be about the search to solve the mystery of Kathleen Wade, who disappears suddenly during her time at Lake of the Woods; however the real mystery of the book is about John himself: what secrets, if any, he was hiding from his wife, and what, exactly, he kept "buried."


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Chapter 6 Quotes

You know, I think politics and magic were almost the same thing for him. Transformations—that’s part of it—trying to change things. When you think about it, magicians and politicians are basically control freaks.

Related Characters: Anthony “Tony” L. Carbo (speaker), John Herman Wade
Related Symbols: Magic
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

In another "Evidence" chapter, Tony Carbo offers an interesting comparison between politicians and magicians. While there are lots of good parallels between these two professions (they're both about pleasing an audience, for example), Tony points to a desire for control, which he says is common in both politicians and magicians.

But what does Tony mean when he says "control?" In part, John Wade enjoys politics and magic because it gives him a sense of ownership. From an early age he collects toys and props for magic shows, and later on, when he becomes a career politician, he gets a sense of delicious pleasure from the bills he proposes. We can think of John's enjoyment of props and bills as "hard power"—he enjoys the feeling of possessing something, and being able to manipulate it completely.

Similarly, John also enjoys his sense of control in regards to people. In order to control people, John doesn't exactly try to manipulate them like objects—instead, he wants to wring love and affection from them. Whether as a politician or a magician, he performs in order to receive love, applause, and admiration. We can think of these aspects of John's personality as his penchant for "soft power," a different and perhaps more sympathetic kind of control.

Chapter 7 Quotes

He talked about leading a good life, doing good things telling the full truth. Politics was manipulation. Like a magic show: invisible wires and secret trapdoors.

Related Characters: John Herman Wade (speaker)
Related Symbols: Magic
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

The quotation describes John, a rising star in the American political scene, in the middle of a big speech. Although John is talking about the most wholesome, innocent values (honesty, goodness, progress), the passage makes it clear that he's not at all committed to these values. On the contrary, John knows deep down that he is a kind of masked deceiver, wowing an audience by disguising his own nature. Although at this point we're not sure what, exactly, John needs to hide so desperately, the implication would appear to be that John is intentionally lying to other people in order to delude them into thinking he's a better man than he is. (The image of a "secret trapdoor suggests something—it's unclear what—buried in John's past.)

One of the major ambiguities of the novel is whether or not John's behavior merits any sympathy. While John is intentionally lying to others, passing himself off as someone he's not, he's also lying to himself in order to survive. As the novel goes on, it becomes clear that John has been deeply traumatized by his experiences in the Vietnam War. Keeping in mind all the violence and carnage John has witnessed, we can even begin to sympathize with John's manipulations: by becoming a politician and making glib speeches about honesty and virtue, he's desperately trying to forget his troubled past.

Chapter 8 Quotes

He moved to the far end of the living room, steadied himself, and boiled a small spider plant. It wasn’t rage; it was necessity.

Related Characters: John Herman Wade (speaker)
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage draws an important distinction between rage and necessity. We see John Wade walking through his cabin in Lake of the Woods late at night. He boils water to make some tea for himself, but then pours the boiling water onto a plant instead. No lengthy explanation is offered for Wade's bizarre behavior. We're only told that Wade isn't killing the plant because he's angry; rather, he's acting out of necessity—he feels that he has no other choice than to kill the plant.

John's behavior in this scene (and throughout the novel) is indicative of his lasting psychological trauma, sustained during the Vietnam War (when he witnessed and participated in horrific acts of violence) and during his childhood (when his father abused him and then hanged himself). People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder often say that they feel that they have no free will; they're just robots, going through the motions even when doing frightening things. The passage captures a similar sense of robotic helplessness—and yet it also shows John committing an act that, while small and petty, seems entirely cruel or even evil.

The passage also hints, very subtly, that even a medical diagnosis of John's problems is insufficient. At various points in the book, the plant that John kills is identified in various contradictory ways (sometimes it's a different species of plant altogether). Such ambiguities in the "hard facts" of the scene point to the unknowability of the novel's mystery and sense of truth, and also to John's state of mind—we can guess what he's been through, but we'll never really know.

Chapter 10 Quotes

They would live in perfect knowledge, all things visible, all things invisible, no wires or strings, just that large dark world where one plus one would always come to zero.

Related Characters: John Herman Wade (speaker), Kathleen “Kathy” Terese Wade
Related Symbols: One Plus One Equals Zero / The Two Snakes
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, John Wade, who has recently returned from the Vietnam War and married Kathy Wade, contemplates a happy future with his wife. John has been through a great deal—violence, war, an abusive parent, etc.—and he's spent most of his adult life trying to deal with his psychological scars, desperately try to erase them so that he can be "normal." In Kathy, John thinks he's finally found a way to be normal. Kathy is a kind, loving woman, who seems to love John for the person he aspires to be (honest, virtuous, etc.), rather than the person he may secretly be (deceptive, violent, manipulative). O'Brien chooses an interesting metaphor to convey John's aspiration of normality. The idea of one plus one equaling zero is strange—almost like a magic trick itself, though here John insists the opposite. While there are many symbolic interpretations of "one plus one equals zero" (see Symbols), John's thoughts here suggest that he thinks Kathy's normality can "shadow" or erase his own dark past. In other words, John thinks that in Kathy he's found someone so understanding and tolerant that she'll make him forget his traumatic experiences: her "one" will cancel out his own.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Audiences want to believe what they see a magician do, and yet at the same time they know better and do not believe. Therein lies the fascination of magic to modern people. It is a paradox, a riddle, a half-fulfillment of an ancient desire, a puzzle, a torment, a cheat and a truth.

Related Characters: Robert Parrish (speaker)
Related Symbols: Magic
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, O'Brien sketches out a basic theme of the work. The idea of "believing and yet not believing" is crucial to the plot of the novel. Here are a few of the senses in which this theme applies to the book:

1) Kathy wants to believe that John is a good, honest man, and yet she also knows very well that he's lying to her. Strangely, the combination of honesty and duplicity makes John more attractive to Kathy than pure honesty or duplicity ever could. Like an audience watching a magic show, Kathy is enthralled because she believes and doubts simultaneously.

2) John believes and yet doesn't believe in himself. He spends his entire adult life trying to delude himself into thinking that he's a "normal" human being. And yet he never entirely succeeds in this lie: he can't prevent himself from thinking back to his traumatic childhood or his experiences in Vietnam—experiences that prove that he's not "good" in any normal sense of the word. John partly seems to enjoy lying to himself: he wants to believe in his own virtue, even when this is clearly impossible.

3) The book itself is a perfect example of believing and not believing. We are the audience for a magic show: as we read, O'Brien makes a man (John) and his wife (Kathy) disappear. We're presented with many possibilities for what happened to this couple, but none of these possibilities is totally convincing. Like an awestruck audience, we want to find the answer to the mystery, but we also don't want to know—we want to remain awestruck and entertained.

Chapter 13 Quotes

John Wade would remember Thuan Yen the way chemical nightmares are remembered, impossible combinations, impossible events, and over time the impossibility itself would become the richest and deepest and most profound memory.
This could not have happened. Therefore it did not.

Related Characters: John Herman Wade (speaker)
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

The American soldiers' experiences in Vietnam during the 1960s and 70s were some of the grimmest of any American war. Soldiers witnessed—and, horrifyingly, participated in—the murder of fellow troops, the burning of civilian villages, and the slaughter of women and children. Many soldiers—John Wade included—went through so much trauma in Vietnam that they developed a condition called PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Tragically, most of the soldiers who contracted this psychological disorder never got the medical help they desperately needed. John, for example, deals with his pain and guilt by repressing it; i.e., by pretending it never happened. As he says, "This could not have happened. Therefore it did not."

The natural questions, then, are what could not have happened, and why couldn't "it" have happened?" To the first question, O'Brien gives a number of answers, none of them totally convincing. It's suggested that John participated in the murder of Vietnamese civilians, and may have shot one of his own peers. The second question, however, is even more important. John refuses to believe that his trauma occurred because he refuses to believe that he's anything other than a "good man." Because he's so fixated on his own appearance of virtue, he tries to forget about his un-virtuous (and even evil) behavior as a soldier. Of course, John's effort to force himself to forget his past practically guarantees that he'll never forget it at all.

Chapter 16 Quotes

All I remember now is the flies.

Related Characters: Richard Thinbill (speaker)
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Richard Thinbill, a troubled Vietnam veteran, remembers his experiences in a Vietnamese village—the site of a brutal massacre orchestrated and carried out by American troops—by referring to flies. Thinbill's quotation says nothing, and everything. The word "flies" calls to mind eerie and disturbing things, like corpses or rotting meat. Without explicitly mentioning any of the unpleasant things we associate with flies, O'Brien conveys these qualities in Thinbill's mind. Indeed, the veiled allusions to death and destruction are more disturbing than any description of a dead body could ever be.

And yet flies don't just make us think of corpses and rotting meat. Flies are also completely ordinary animals, more common than dogs or cats. In short, flies are both strange and familiar; morbid and banal. By choosing flies as a symbol for Thinbill's recollections of Vietnam, O'Brien makes an important point about the way trauma works. The tiniest "trigger"—something as insignificant as a fly buzzing—could set Thinbill off on a long, painful flashback to his time in the war. Thinbill (and his hundreds of thousands of fellow veterans) lives in a nightmarish world in which he's constantly reliving the worst moments of his life.

Chapter 18 Quotes

Humming to herself, Kathy adjusted the tiller and began planning a dinner menu, two big steaks and salad and cold beer, imagining how she’d describe everything that was happening out here. Get some sympathy for herself. Get his attention for a change.
The idea gave her comfort. She could almost picture a happy ending.

Related Characters: Kathleen “Kathy” Terese Wade (speaker)
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter 18, we're presented with one hypothesis for how Kathy Wade disappeared: she drove off in a boat by herself after having an argument with John. In this particular section, O'Brien offers us a window into Kathy's thought process for this scenario. As Kathy drives the boat, she thinks about how worried John must be that she's not at home. Moreover, she relishes the reunion she'll have with John that night: they'll have a nice meal and try to make a fresh start.

More generally, the passage offers an explanation for how Kathy has managed to stay married to John—a man she regards as dangerous and mysterious, and who she doesn't really know—for so many years. Kathy is an eternal optimist: no matter how bad things get, she's willing to look forward to a future in which things will be better between her and her husband. And yet Kathy is also something of a masochist: she enjoys the constant struggle for a happy marriage perhaps more than she would enjoy the happy marriage itself. Here, she seems to be enjoying her own "plot" to manipulate John into apology.

Chapter 19 Quotes

The thing about facts, he decided, was that they came in sizes. You had to try them on for proper fit. A case in point: his own responsibility. Right now he couldn’t help feeling the burn of guilt.

Related Characters: John Herman Wade (speaker)
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, we see John Wade struggling with his most common emotion: guilt. John Wade's wife, Kathy, is nowhere to be found, and seems to have disappeared into the lake. Because of the way O'Brien structures the chapter, however, it's not at all clear if John knows where his wife is or not. Because of the (intentional) lack of clarity in perspective, we have no way of knowing what, precisely, John is feeling guilty about. John may be pondering his treatment of Kathy—he may have literally killed her and disposed of the body. On the other extreme, John's anxiety about Kathy's whereabouts may have triggered some of the guilt he feels with regard to his father and to the war in Vietnam. Because he's always felt unloved and disliked, John has always felt guilty that his peers and family members don't love him more. So, strange as it seems, John's guilt in the aftermath of Kathy's disappearance isn't necessarily an admission of guilt at all—it's the natural response for an unloved child. O'Brien emphasizes the uncertainty of John's situation by commenting on the problem with facts themselves. As John describes them, facts aren't "true" at all; they have to be adjusted, tried on for size, etc. By the same token, there's no way to determine the facts about Kathy's disappearance: instead, O'Brien offers many contradictory facts, none of which tell the full story.

Chapter 20 Quotes

Double consummation: A way of fooling the audience by making it believe a trick is over before it really is.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), John Herman Wade
Related Symbols: Magic
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

In this "Evidence" chapter, O'Brien offers a theory for Kathy's disappearance. But because he presents this theory in an ambiguous form—as the definition of a magical term—it's not clear for another hundred pages that he's offering another theory at all. The principle of double consummation—the idea that a trick isn't over when the audience believes it to be over—becomes especially relevant to Kathy's disappearance when, a few weeks later, John Wade himself disappears. While it's impossible to prove anything with regard to the case, O'Brien suggests that John and Kathy may have planned to run off together. knowing that they'd raise too many red flags by disappearing together, they decided that Kathy should disappear first, and John should disappear shortly afterwards. John and Kathy's vanishing act is a double consummation because the real trick (John's disappearance) arrives only after the first trick (Kathy's) is complete.

The unknown, the unknowable. The blank faces. The overwhelming otherness. This is not to justify what occurred on March 16, 1968, for in my view such justifications are both futile and outrageous. Rather, it’s to bear witness to the mystery of evil. Twenty-five years ago, as a terrified young PFC, I too could taste the sunlight. I could smell the sin. I could feel butchery sizzling like grease just under my eyeballs.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sunlight
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

In this footnote, one of the most surprising and unexpected moments in the novel, the narrator discusses his own thoughts, experiences, and opinions, speaking in the first person. Previously, the narrator of the novel has played the part of a calm, emotionless detective, sifting through the evidence—in short, the narrator hasn't really been a character at all. The fact that the narrator is suddenly giving his own interpretation of the events of the book tells us right away that he has strong feelings about and a personal history with the issues he's discussing—sin, violence, and butchery—and it's not hard to see why. As the narrator explains, he was present in Vietnam during the height of the war. (In real life, Tim O'Brien was also a soldier in Vietnam at this time.)

The narrator insists that he's speaking about his own experiences simply to "bear witness to the mystery of evil"—not trying to justify or condemn evil, but just to describe how it can occur in human nature. By this point in the novel, it's pretty clear that John Wade has participated in some pretty horrific things: he's murdered his fellow soldiers and shot old, harmless Vietnamese men. The narrator has no intention of forgiving John for his actions. But he also seems to be doing something more ethical than merely "witnessing" John's actions. By acknowledging that he (the narrator) felt "sin" during his own time in Vietnam, the narrator seems to be suggesting that John's actions, while horrific, aren't alien to human nature. In other words, human beings have the capacity to do evil. Most people never have to face the fact that they're capable of murder and torture, but John and the narrator, as soldiers, do.

Chapter 21 Quotes

Thinbill sighed. “I guess that’s the right attitude. Laugh it off. Fuck the spirit world.”

Related Characters: Richard Thinbill (speaker), John Herman Wade
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Thinbill—one of the only soldiers mentioned in the novel who doesn't participate in the atrocities of My Lai and other Vietnamese villages—gives John Wade some advice on how to deal with trauma. John has witnessed innocent women and children being murdered, and has even shot a harmless elderly man. John can't stop thinking about the horrific sights he's seen: like many victims of PTSD, he remembers the faces of the dead in vivid, photographic detail. John's reaction to his terrifying memories is to laugh.

In the way Thinbill interprets John's laughter, John is trying to escape his own memories of Vietnam (which Thinbill refers to as the "spirit world," suggesting how Vietnam will "haunt" the American soldiers). But as O'Brien has already shown us, John can't just "laugh off" his trauma. For years, John tries to use performance, humor, and charm to forget his experiences in Vietnam, but he never succeeds in doing so. So Thinbill's interpretation of John's behavior may be incorrect. Thinbill believes John is "moving on," but in reality, John's laughter is just an extension of his trauma, not an escape from it. In short, John tries to laugh off his past, but fails.

Chapter 22 Quotes

All you could do, he’d said, was open yourself up like a window and wait for fortune to blow in. And then they’d talked about stuck windows. Tony suggested that she unstick herself. So she’d shrugged and said she had tried it once but the unsticking hadn’t gone well.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Kathleen “Kathy” Terese Wade, Anthony “Tony” L. Carbo
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Kathy thinks about some advice Tony has given her recently. Tony knows that Kathy is locked in an unhappy marriage to John Wade. His advice is that Kathy free herself from her own unhappiness: in short, that she "unstick" herself.

It's important to recognize that Tony is referring to Kathy's marital infidelities here: he knows that Kathy has had an affair with another man at some point, and his advice is that Kathy should leave John for good. Of course, Tony is attracted to Kathy, and so his advice is also flirtation: he acts like he wants Kathy to be "free," but really he just wants to date her.

Tony's advice is also meant to counterpoint the difficulty that John and Kathy have with disentangling themselves from each other, and from their respective pasts. John has a long, traumatic past, and he can't just unstick himself, no matter how hard he tries. Similarly, Kathy feels that she has too much emotional baggage with John: as much as she sometimes wants to leave, she's too close to John to do so.

Chapter 23 Quotes

Curiously, as he worked out the details, Wade found himself experiencing a dull new sympathy for his father. This was how it was. You go about your business. You carry the burdens, entomb yourself in silence, conceal demon-history from all others and most times from yourself. Nothing theatrical … and then one day you discover a length of clothesline. You amaze yourself.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), John Herman Wade , Paul Wade
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, John thinks about his father, Paul. Paul is a cruel, abusive drunk, who humiliates John for being overweight when John is just a small child. Decades later, John—in the midst of the search for Kathy, who's disappeared into the lake—decides that he and his father have ended up more or less the same.  For John to compare himself with Paul (someone who caused him plenty of misery over the years) is a plain sign of his self-hatred at this time.

The passage is important because it suggests that John is coming to terms with his own tactics of evasion and repression. We the readers have known that John tries to bury his feelings under a surface of virtue, magic, and charm. But here, John himself seems to become aware of this fact, too: by contemplating his father's problems with honesty and directness, John realizes that he himself is no better. The passage also suggests (obliquely and darkly) that John and Paul took different approaches to their deception. Paul couldn't handle the pressures of concealing himself from the people around him, so he hanged himself (the mention of a "clothesline" is intended to remind us of Paul's fate). John, however, found a way to relieve some of his own anxieties: magic, performance, and politics. In short, John and Paul suffer from the same fear of telling the truth, but whereas Paul cracks under the pressure, John finds a way to survive.

Chapter 25 Quotes

Why do we care about Lizzie Borden, or Judge Carter, or Lee Harvey Oswald, or the Little Big Horn? Because of all that cannot be known. And what if we did know? What if it were proved—absolutely and purely—that Lizzie Borden took an ax? That Oswald acted alone? That Judge Carter fell into Sicilian hands? Nothing more would beckon, nothing would tantalize.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Lizzie Borden, Lee Harvey Oswald
Page Number: 266
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, the narrator applies the rules of magic to real life (and to the novel). The world is full of unsolved mysteries, the narrator begins: Kennedy's assassination, the Battle of Little Big Horn, etc. There have been many people who've tried to solve these real-life mysteries, devoting thousands and thousands of hours to doing so. And yet for all their efforts, the narrator concludes, most of us don't really want to know the answer to the mystery. As with a magic trick, a real-life mystery (even a tragic or traumatic one) is fascinating in part because we can't know what really happened. Everyone feels a hunger for the truth, but if that hunger were ever satisfied in the case of (for example) Kennedy's assassination, people would forfeit something equally powerful—the sense of tantalizing excitement.

O'Brien's observations have some obvious relevance to the events of the novel. When we began reading, we naturally assumed that we would learn the solution to the "mystery" of Kathy's disappearance. But as we approach the end of the book, it becomes clear that O'Brien isn't going to tell us what happened. Furthermore, it's possible that we don't truly want to know what happened: the possibilities are too intriguing to choose only one.

Chapter 29 Quotes

And here in a corner of John Wade’s imagination, where things neither live nor die, Kathy stares up at him from beneath the surface of the silvered lake. Her eyes are brilliant green, her expression alert. Se tries to speak, but can’t. She belongs to the angle. Not quite present, not quite gone, she swims in the blending twilight of in between.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), John Herman Wade , Kathleen “Kathy” Terese Wade
Related Symbols: The Lake
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, the narrator offers another hypothesis for what happened to Kathy Wade. It's possible that Kathy Wade drowned (but whether because she was murdered or by accident we're not told), and in this case, Kathy is probably lying somewhere at the bottom of the lake.

O'Brien description of Kathy's bloated, decaying corpse is vivid and terrifying, and this is precisely his point. O'Brien isn't just describing Kathy's body; he's describing how John Wade might imagine Kathy's body, in all the gory, larger-than-life details. Ultimately, it's suggested, Kathy becomes a part of John's troubled, traumatic past—just like his time in Vietnam, or the abuse that he endured during his childhood. Just like these traumatic events, Kathy's body is "not quite present, not quite gone." In other words, John can't forget about Kathy altogether, but he also can't bring her back to life. Instead, Kathy is a memory for John, playing again and again in his troubled mind.

Chapter 30 Quotes

It’s odd how the mind erases horror. All the evidence suggests that John Wade was able to perform a masterly forgetting trick for nearly two decades, somehow coping, pushing it all away, and from my own experience, I can understand how he kept things buried.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), John Herman Wade
Related Symbols: Magic
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, the narrator personally intervenes in the novel once again. In a footnote, he offers a subtly different interpretation of John Wade's life than the one we've gotten so far in the book. For the narrator, it's potentially possible to forget one's traumatic past, or at least to appear to forget it. As evidence, the narrator offers John Wade's own life as a "normal" politician.

By this point in the book, however, the idea that John Wade was successful in pushing away his time in Vietnam should seem ludicrous. Clearly, John didn't really forget about Vietnam at all; eventually, his guilt and anxiety resurfaced. Even in the years immediately after Vietnam, when John was a happy, charismatic politician, it's been suggested that he continued to experience flashbacks to his time in war. John didn't "keep things buried" at all.

So why does the narrator seem optimistic that John was successful in his attempts to "erase horror?" Perhaps the narrator is trying to convince himself that it's possible to forget the past. The narrator chooses to believe that John succeeded in repressing Vietnam in order to reassure himself that he (the narrator) can do the same. And yet, as we see, trauma never really goes away until it is confronted in a direct and healthy manner.

Chapter 31 Quotes

If all is supposition, if ending is air, then why not happiness? Are we so cynical, so sophisticated, as to write off even the chance of happy ending?

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final chapter of the novel, the narrator offers some thoughts on the unknowability of Kathy's disappearance. After 300 pages of hypotheses about what happened to Kathy, the narrator throws up his hands and admits that he has no idea what the truth is. But the narrator goes on to make a more complicated point: if we can't know what "really" happened, he argues, we might as well accept the most optimistic interpretation of the facts, provided that it's reasonable.

The narrator's rhetorical question sheds some light on the novel itself, without offering a "solution" to the mystery of Kathy's disappearance. The narrator tells us that "all is supposition." The natural question, then, is what was the purpose of this entire book? Strangely, the narrator has led readers through pages of facts and entire chapters of evidence, just to illustrate (in the most unforgettable way!) that all this evidence is futile. He's taken us across a bridge to nowhere, and then blown up the bridge.

And yet the narrator's project isn't totally destructive, even if he's destroyed some of our faith in the facts of the narrative. Evidence and research can't illuminate the truth for us, but we can choose to believe the most optimistic (or pessimistic, etc.) interpretation of the facts. In short, facts can't save us—only hope and personal interpretation can do that.

No matches.