Green Fairy – Behind the Scenes 4

Jean’s turn.

Where to start with this noble asshole of a chamois? I almost had the reverse problem with him that I did with Sol: he was going to be immediately sympathetic by virtue of being the narrator of his own story, starting out in prison, and writing a good-faith (supposedly) letter to his father. What I channeled for him was that backwards rationalization we feel when we find ourselves at the end of some adventure that has not turned out at all the way we’d planned and we are trying to justify it. I think if you had asked Jean before he met Niki whether he would think himself capable of the things he ended up doing (trying to avoid being too spoilery), he would have hesitated. I don’t believe he thought of himself that way, and–paradoxically–even less so upon reflection in prison. He feels that his friends and companions and Niki himself drove him to those acts, and so he shifts the blame away from himself in his own mind as well as in his story.

Of course, he is further altering his story to appeal to his father, leaving out things like “I gave a dancer twenty francs” and substituting, “My purse was stolen” (one of the lies you get to see through Niki’s eyes). But while it is manipulative–Jean thinks he can get people to do what he wants and think of him the way he wants, and perhaps Niki’s greatest crime in his eyes is being immune to that–it is not completely dishonest, not in his eyes. He believes that he should be allowed to do whatever he wants, like dress up a boy to impersonate a girl, and congratulates himself on his cleverness when he succeeds, but blames others when he fails.

My favorite aspect of Jean’s story is that his tone doesn’t change, but once you start to see Niki’s viewpoint, you begin to understand that Jean is a very unreliable narrator. Everything from then on is thrown into question, and everything you’ve already read, as well. His friend and former lover becomes much more sympathetic (I think).

But by the end, I think the narrative actually becomes a little more honest, and there is something of a transformation there, although not much. Jean is unable to escape the cold fact of what he’s done, and as much as he rationalizes it, when it comes to having to describe it to his father, he cannot run around it, because it is the entire reason for his story. He can’t just explain it away. So he has to construct a reason for it, and I think he does not land too far when he says there is love. As I was writing Jean’s take on it, I felt him lose his desperation to justify himself to his father–he regains it, a bit, when the whole episode is over–but I think his writing, there at the end, is mostly to justify himself to himself. And I am not entirely sure he succeeds.

Footnote: one person said that the footnote about where the manuscript was found was cold and heartbreaking, in a way. I am glad that so much of a story can be told in one line.

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