The Spectacular Now
by Tim Tharp
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
1st person – Central Narrator
This story is totally told from Sutter's point of view. It's like the Sutterman himself is sitting next to you at a bar, giving you the scoop on what's been going on with him. That gives us awesome insight into his thoughts throughout the story, but—just like sitting next to a drunk at a bar—it has its downsides, as well.
See, Sutter's not exactly what you'd call a trustworthy narrator. Not only is he wrapped up in his own little world, but he's also drunk most of the time. So his observations are almost always skewed or warped in some way.
Me, me, me, meeeee
First of all, he's a bit self-centered, and is always making excuses for his own iffy behavior. After he burns up his brother-in-law's suit, he tries to make it sound okay: "It's only really the one suit that's altogether ruined," he says. "The others will probably smell a little funny, but a trip to the cleaner will fix that easy enough. He throws a complete fit all over me, though" (14.24).
Gee. Ruining a closet full of expensive suits—the suits that his brother-in-law has to wear to work every day? Yeah, NBD. Just imagine the very different reaction we'd get if we were seeing this from Holly's point of view instead.
Secondly, Sutter's a lush, a legitimate alcoholic. And it's really not funny. He even admits himself that his moods and thoughts are dependent on which stage of the buzz he's in. He can't always tell the difference between what's going on in his head and what's going on outside his head. Here's a typical example: he walks out of a room and then walks in, and says "Back in the banquet hall, the mood of the prom has changed. Or maybe it's just that I'm sinking into the next stage of the life of the buzz." (52.1)
In other words, you can't trust what Sutter says to be the truth. You have to look carefully at the other characters' reactions – and even if Sutter dismisses them, you shouldn't. That's the only way to get an objective view of the action. Whenever he starts pontificating on how great or how awful something is, you have to suspect that it might just be the whiskey talking.
Come to think of it, maybe whiskey is the narrator. It sure seems to be controlling Sutter's life.