Greg Egan’s story “Learning to Be Me” had a particularly indescribable effect on me as a reader, and I would therefore like to look at this story through a writer’s standpoint. Egan, through relatively few words, outlines an entire biography of his protagonist character, and this depiction of the character allows the reader to become sympathetic with him. Starting at the beginning, Egan is able to build tension in the story which stems directly from the thoughts and feelings of his characters. As we see him move through relationships and as we see him consistently unable to connect with others, our sympathy and fear for this character builds. At the end of the story, when the character’s identity is called into question, and in many ways, when this identity remains clouded in mystery at the close of the story, it leaves the reader shocked at the results. If Egan’s intent was to shock and scare his readers from an onslaught of self-destructive technology, he may in fact be able to succeed.
Another theme of this story which struck me was the idea of community. We talked about community in class in relation to the Winner article, and we discussed Winner’s own ideas on technology’s nod to individualism and its danger to the idea of a community. Throughout Egan’s story, the protagonist consistently has trouble finding a community of his own. He lists off many failed relationships. His friendships begin to be based on finding people who are not “jewel-heads.” Many of the “real” humans he finds, such as his therapist, have emotional problems of their own, often stemming from their obsession over switching. In the story, Egan is laying out a world where community is difficult to find, partially, or perhaps fully, due to technological advances which, Egan might argue, have gone too far.
Overall, however, I would like to end my blog by praising the storywriter’s talent. I felt that he handled the switching dialogue and the futuristic notion of the plot very well. The reader was certainly kept in suspense until the end of the story, and the ending may perhaps take a few readings to fully understand. Overall, however, I felt that the story was well done and that it brought to life many of the issues we have already discussed and read about in class and in articles.