Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 406
The several points of view through which “Sarah Cole” is related all belong to Ron. As the story begins he speaks conversationally in the first person. Later—and especially as Ron’s part in the story becomes more painful to him—the voice becomes third person, with Ron commenting about himself as though he were a character. At first this shifting perspective might cause the reader to question Ron’s reliability as a narrator, for one cannot escape the sense of Ron’s scrupulous attempt to spare no important detail. He seems painstaking in his efforts to omit nothing, the bad or the good. Further complicating this question of reliability is the fact that he relates everything ten years after it has occurred. Also, he begins the story by revealing that Sarah is dead, which is not literally true. Ron only thinks of her as dead (in fact, thinks of himself as her killer) after he somewhat callously ejects her from his life.
Part of Banks’s strategy would seem to be to allow the reader to work through Ron’s problem of understanding this strange relationship along with Ron himself. The level of personal detail about Ron and Sarah, as well as the portrayal of their lives, is as meticulous as Ron is persistent in trying to understand the anxiety he feels over this failed romance. Though at first one might be suspicious of Ron’s motivations and exercise caution regarding how much to trust this one-sided portrayal, the events unfold in a believable way. Both Sarah’s and Ron’s motivations make sense, and it would seem Banks has taken care to ensure that even though presented from Ron’s point of view, this story appears an honest re-creation of events.
Though presented secondhand, so to speak, Sarah’s “voice” is as genuine as Ron’s. Ron’s switches from first-person to third-person narration, instead of making the reader ultimately suspicious, add to the feelings of embarrassment and pain that Ron reveals force him to relate this story impersonally at times. Banks has allowed his narrator to question his own motivations by seeming to distance himself from what he does not trust himself to honestly relate, and thereby relate it as a disinterested and objective observer. The reader is given the bizarre task not only of analyzing and making sense of subjective as well as objective observations, but also of deciding on their veracity.