Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Just as it is impossible to talk about the characters of Jealousy in the traditional manner, so is it impossible to treat its themes and meanings in that way. This is true because the book is static; there is movement but no progress. There is a clue, perhaps, as to how the book should be seen, a clue that occurs near the beginning, when the narrator describes his observations as being an exercise. If the reader takes observation and description to be the main purpose of the book, then he or she can make sense of it.

There are several passages in the novel in which the narrator is, as usual, looking through a window. The glass in the window is of poor quality and there are serious imperfections in it. The narrator then plays the same game that everyone has played at one time or another; “he” deliberately distorts what “he” observes. Upon finding an imperfection, the narrator moves so that the imperfection is between “him” and the object that “he” is observing. The result is that the object is totally distorted from what it is in objective reality. The narrator makes things change location and even disappear completely. The object still exists, but the narrator’s perception of it depends not on its objective existence but on how “he” chooses to consider it.

Applying this point of view to the stain left by the centipede, it would seem that the reason that the mark grows or shrinks during the various descriptions is...

(The entire section is 469 words.)