Part 1: Pattern
Documentation is an important idea throughout the novel. In his quest to figure out his past and lost identity, Eric places a huge importance on collecting and deciphering physical documents for any clues.
- (p36) “Memory pressed flat into text. The Light Bulb Fragment was some sort of journal or transcript, a written window into my missing past”
- (p60-61) “…Dr Randle can neither help nor protect you. I limped into the kitchen and started taking the First Eric Sanderson’s letters out of the cupboard”
- (p93-97) Physical representations of text that Eric encounters while in search for Fidorous: flyposted text, nucleus of cell, text structure of a fossil fish, image of computer virus mosquito on the “acetate label [of] a floppy disk”
- (p125,128) “Inside was a hardback book. The white dust jacket had a detailed Victorian etching of a prehistoric stiff-finned fish. The title read: The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, and underneath, smaller; with Evolution Engine by Trey Fidorous….As soon as I read [the accompanying note], I knew I would go”
Part 2: Analysis
With lost identity and lost memories, Eric attempts to comprehend the world that he woke up in. Eric’s beginning efforts to figure out his situation include reading letters and decoding the Light Bulb Fragment sent from the first Eric Sanderson. And when the documentation from the first Eric is not enough, Eric sets out to track down Dr. Trey Fidorous. While looking for Fidorous, Eric latches onto any form of documentation related to Fidorous that he finds along the way. When the mysterious packet that he receives from Mr. Nobody turns out to be a book that Fidorous had worked on, Eric reads through it earnestly and resolves to meet the person who sent him this clue. Once introduced to the idea of Ward and its network, even though the network is more of a concept than a tangible object, Eric associates Ward to Mr. Nobody’s laptop. The laptop becomes the physical embodiment of Ward, as Eric uses it as the weapon against the Lucidovian shark.
What Eric is truly searching for is not tangible. But he looks for physical proof of his memories, ideas, concepts and beliefs, because that gives him the power to contextualize everything. Eric’s dependence on physical documentation demonstrates Hall’s valorization of print throughout the novel. Because while the internet and the digital flow of communication have the dangerous potential to drain away your identity, with Mycroft Ward and the Lucidovian lurking among those streams, the first Eric was able to partially preserve his identity and memories through writing printed media (letters, Light Book fragments), and the second Eric pieces together those forms of print to find his identity and memories – to construct his reality. Hall incorporates physical documentation as a core part of the construction to also highlights the impressive power of words. They communicate ideas and concepts that transcend to reality. How those concepts translate into reality depend on the individual’s interpretation. Eric’s dreams and memories of Clio, as well as perceived similarities to Scout, all result from his interpretation of the documentation that he has collected: the lightbulb fragment, the postcard, the letters. Hall further supports the idea of an interpretive reality through the wordplay in the title: Rorschach Test, in which inkblots look like different images depending on the individual.
The act of collecting documents also illustrates that our identity and reality that we formulate is not as introspective as it may seem – it is built from everything around us, including the texts and its concepts. Hall brings the experience of figuring out reality to the reader as well, most notably through the unexplained documents at the end of the book: the postcard from Eric and newspaper clipping about Eric’s death. Readers are placed in the same position Eric was in at first, grasping any type of documentation that could explain what happens to Eric and Scout just as Eric grasped at any type of documentation that could explain what happened with the first Eric or lead him to Fidorous. Similarly, the reader has been viewing different types of documentation throughout Eric’s journey, to experience the “reality” that Eric is going through. It is up to the readers to apply their interpretation of the documents to the novel, constructing their own version of reality for Eric.
Part 3: Question
How does the creation of media (journals, books, digital, etc) impact the identity of a person or an object in the novel The Raw Shark Texts?