Depending upon one’s view, there may be dozens of characters in Lookout Cartridge or only one, that represented by the voice of Cartwright. As the purposes behind events are ambiguous, so are the motives usually associated with the activities and personalities of traditionally defined characters. Why, for example, should so many people be interested in a cheaply made, seemingly disorganized film shot by two completely unknown amateur filmmakers? Characters in Lookout Cartridge bear names (sometimes, confusingly, two characters share the same name) and engage in activities but never emerge from the matrix of plot and cross-purpose to become Forsterian “rounded characters.” Cartwright himself often questions his own status as an actor in an unseen plot or a discrete self in an overcomplicated world; at times, he compares his being to a crystal in an LED display, a stray signal in a noisy system of communication, or a “lookout cartridge”—a device which merely records, rather than sorts out, whatever information is fed into it.
It is precisely what he decides his function to be within a novel which is an assemblage of scattered facts and actions that defines Cartwright’s “character” and his position as protagonist. Like the familiar hero of an Alfred Hitchcock film, the innocent “who knows too much,” dragged into a mystery not of his making and beyond his powers of comprehension, Cartwright is often simply the victim of...
(The entire section is 486 words.)