The Family Dynamic
The unique ability to get a transparent representation of a family dynamic is awarded by the multiple sections in the Familar by Xanther, Anwar, and Astair and the ways that they interact and see each other. It is arguable that this family is the most relevant and central to TF, but it is also the most reliable due to the accountability and multiple presentations of each character. Details, patterns, and the random nature of The Familiar are already almost impossible to decipher, and the incomplete and by consequence unreliable perspectives of the other characters make it even more difficult to construct an accurate view to attempt to understand what Danielewski is trying to say. Because this family is most evident throughout the novel and the story line the most fully explained, it is safe to conclude that it has the most to reveal about the plot. Anwar is seen in Xanther’s eyes as a superhero who codes and answers her questions, but to Astair she is critical of him and to himself, perhaps even more critical. Whether colored favorably or not, a first person depiction of one’s self is never reliable and the validation or invalidation given by the other characters gives different aspects of the story credibility. Astair is seen as a strong mother and intelligent character by both her husband and children, but only upon her own perspective it is revealed to the audience the true desperate nature of her thoughts. Upon the kitten’s arrival, some form of a mental breakdown occurs within her sections but without their inclusion would go completely unnoticed. Without this perspective, the worry over Xanther and her constant feeling like she’s placing buckets everywhere to catch the leaks would not show how hard she’s working to try to keep things together and be successful rather than her claim that she is just allergic to cats. Xanther’s epilepsy is consuming to all members of the family, but if only viewed from her parent’s perspectives you would miss the strength, curiosity, and compassionate nature of Xanther that comes from her own perspectives.
The narcons who produce the stories produce them one character at a time, so it is up to the reader and not the writer to figure out the family dynamic and to deduce the truth from the multiple perspectives. A character alone is biased and incomplete, but the whole family unit allows for a sense of completion, and with that sense of completion, the task of starting to understand can begin.