The Familiar and Power – A New Perspective

The Familiar is effective in that it leads the reader to empathy by forcing complete engagement with the book, making its argument about mental illness something to be experienced rather than told. Danielewski does not just try to convince the reader that Xanther is ailed and anxious because of her questions; he actually creates the cycle of questions for the reader so that he or she can be in Xanther’s position of having more questions than can be answered and even questions about questions. The mentality created for the reader comes from the question of what the orb is and how the book functions as metafiction with the Narcon as a character who is not in the story. The convoluted nature of the book relates to the cloudiness of all things in Xanther’s mind. This tactic matches the rest of Danieleski’s style in the novel and keeps the reader from becoming numb to the idea of how harmful mental illness can be since in a way he or she experiences it too. The cat brings resolve to Xanther in a lot of ways, and even though her illness is not cured, she finds that “everything suddenly feels manageable. Or better: answerable” and the reader gets to join her in that place of comfort, knowing that the book is not all answered but that for now the character that the reader has so much invested in is going to be okay (Danielewski 837-839). The book as a fantastical journey of joining in with Xanther makes it an experience of learning the hardship and the relief of escape from mental illness.

Similarly, in Power by Linda Hogan, Hogan uses the technique of allowing the reader to actually experience a piece of Native American culture in order to garner the sympathy for Native American traditions that create the conflict in the book. The morality of Ama’s decision to kill the panther comes from her wanting the sacred animal to be set free so that all things could be restored for the broken world. This decision is considered moral because of the Taiga traditional beliefs, not because of the non-native standard of morality. In the same way, Hogan structures her novel in the traditional Native American fashion by making the story circular, ending up where it began. She rejects the tradition exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution structure of modern western literature just like Ama rejects the non-native standard of morality. As the reader experiences reading the book differently than he or she is used to, he or she also finds that the morality and sympathies garnered in the story don’t necessarily match those standard to western beliefs. Just as Danieleski does, Hogan invites the reader in to experience her novel and the experiences of her characters instead of observing it from the traditional outsider perspective.


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