LOST IN THE TEXTUAL MAZE? CONCEALMENTS AND DOUBLINGS IN PETER STRAUB’S MR. X

Sławomir Studniarz

Katedra Filologii Angielskiej Uniwersytet Warmińsko-Mazurski



Abstrakt

The article explores the textual intricacy and the epistemological uncertainty projected
by the 1999 novel of Peter Straub titled Mr. X. Already the title of the novel hints at
secrecy, hidden identities, and cryptic messages. Indeed, the novel seems to be conceived
as a cryptogram and a kind of literary “Russian doll”. This applies as much to the person
of the narrator as to the construction of the narrative, its layers upon layers of secrecy and
deception. This cryptic character of the novel is reinforced by the lack of closure and the
ambiguity of the ending: “the fog” that shrouds everything as well as “undecipherable signs” that Ned meets along the way serve as a trope that projects the implied reader’s loss
of certainty. The sense of being lost in the textual maze is compounded by the abundant
instances of doubling and mirroring in the text. This is first observed in the composition
of the novel as the dual-level narrative, consisting of the part narrated by Ned, and of the
diary of Mr. X, the mysterious figure seen by Ned in his dreams, later revealed to be his
father. The two, Ned and Mr. X, in their own peculiar ways act out the same pattern: Ned’s
quest to find out the identity of his father is paralleled by his father’s (futile) attempts to
confirm his own unearthly origins. However, duality is most powerfully expressed by the
motif of doppelganger: Ned, the narrator, in time realizes the existence of his not-entirelyhuman
brother, Robert, his “shadow self”, his “dark half”. Finally, even the novel, Mr. X,
finds itself reflected in the work of fiction written by Mr. X, a story titled Blue Fire. Blue
Fire, introduced at length into the narrative, serves as its specular text, mise en abyme,
encapsulating its two central themes, as verbalized by the narrator: “the obsession with the
ancestral house” and “the flight from and the pursuit of the Other”.


Słowa kluczowe:

textual intricacy, doubling, lack of closure, motif of doppelganger, subtext, mise en abyme

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B. Sheehan, At the Foot of the Story Tree. An Inquiry into the Fiction of Peter Straub, Burton,Subterranean Press 2000, p. 304.

Opublikowane
2010-12-01

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Studniarz, S. (2010). LOST IN THE TEXTUAL MAZE? CONCEALMENTS AND DOUBLINGS IN PETER STRAUB’S MR. X. Acta Neophilologica, 1(XII), 193–202. Pobrano z https://czasopisma.uwm.edu.pl/index.php/an/article/view/1270

Sławomir Studniarz 
Katedra Filologii Angielskiej Uniwersytet Warmińsko-Mazurski