‘To The Wilderness I Wander’ by Frank Butler

To The Wilderness I Wander by Frank Butler, 1956

The magic trick:

Using a bizarre first-person omniscient narration

Butler employs an odd narrative technique here: the first-person omniscient. From the very start, the narrator allows that things aren’t about to go too well for our protagonist, Marianne Smith, in this story. The narrator even blames Marianne for her fate before it happens. The tone is loose, almost comical, but also ominous. It’s a very strange way of foreshadowing, and I liked it. Unfortunately, the long-awaited fate – and believe me when I tell you it is long-awaited – fails to justify the hype. Marianne winds up in a never-land where time gets stuck, and I’d argue this story’s plot got lost in the same place. Still, the narration, especially at the beginning, makes for an interesting study. And that’s quite a trick on Butler’s part.

The selection:

Let me say this story began one warm May morning in the smart, stale, and ordinarily preoccupied mind of a sullenly attractive young woman named Marianne Smith while she was riding uptown on the Seventh Avenue subway. Let me say it began there only because we do not know nearly enough to tell where it actually did or could begin, or even whether the word could apply to what I know happened to her that day.

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