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“What Am I Without My Buffo’s Face? Why, Nobody At All. Take Away My Makeup And Underneath Is Merely Not Buffo.” (Carter 122) To What Extent Do Th

2222 words - 9 pages


Postmodern literature draws attention to its status as fictional to break down barriers between reality and illusion. The boundaries between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ are no longer clear, because identity is socially constructed. In White Noise and Nights at the Circus, characters such as Sophie Fevvers and Jack Gladney have fabricated personas, and they exaggerate these roles so that their audiences cannot tell the difference between what the characters perform and their ‘true’ nature. There are many Matryoshka principles in Nights at the Circus, adding many layers of fiction to the story. This emphasizes the constructed identities of the characters by the authors and the characters themselves. ...view middle of the document...

As Walser attempts to deconstruct Fevvers, he decides that she is a hoax since Hindu deities do not exist in science. At this point, by using words denoting certainty, he is sure what is artificial about her and what is not. As suggests Sarah Sceats suggests, “her identity through the central portion of the novel is fairly fixed; we perceive her largely from Walser’s point of view” . Whilst the narration is third person, the reader does follow Walser’s travels as he joins the circus to be near Fevvers, so it seems as though the reader’s impression of Fevvers is through Walser. Jennifer Gustar discusses the duality of Fevvers being fact or fiction:
In Carter's Nights at the Circus, the protagonist, Fevvers, is an evocative representation of these problems of credulity. Central to our understanding of the novel is the importance of voice; the novel commences with what turns out to be the absolutely irrepressible verbal acrobatics of the protagonist: "her dark, rusty, dipping, swooping voice, imperious as a siren's" (p. 43). The language of the opening passage draws the reader into the position occupied in the novel by Walser: we listen to Fevvers's comical Cockney monologue with wonder and disbelief. Indeed, whether Fevvers is fact or fiction is a problem Jack Walser, the reader, and even Fevvers herself are led to contemplate. The young journalist, Walser, who records her life story, finds her narrative unbelievable. How does the reader interpret the disbelief evoked by her story? How does Fevvers deal with the disbelief she provokes?

As Gustar reasons, the reader has no good reason to believe Fevvers. She is drunk on champagne and the audience has no evidence until later in the story. Gustar emphasizes the layers of audience in the story; not only do we have Walser listening, but we have the reader reading as well. Narrating the story in her dressing room, Fevvers is sure that she knows who she is, and Walser thinks that she is glorifying herself. However, as he learns more about Fevvers and her past, he finds that Fevvers’ identity is not straightforward. Fevvers says when on stage, she dyes her feathers “in order to simulate more perfectly the tropic bird” and is “the only deception which I practise on the public!” . Apart from dying her hair and feathers, Fevvers claims that she doesn’t enhance her appearance in any other way, and so is sure which parts of her body are exaggerated.However, when Fevvers asks whether she is fact or fiction, it becomes obvious that nobody knows to what extent Fevvers is fictional:

She felt her outlines waver, she felt trapped forever in the reflection of Walser’s eyes. For one moment, just one moment, Fevvers suffered the worst crisis of her life: Am I fact? Or am I fiction? Am I what I know I am? Or am I what he thinks I am?

Fevvers asks the immortal question of herself that is widely regarded as her maxim: is she real or a hoax? She knows that she represents a recycled symbol of a winged woman that...

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