1. He’s enjoying himself, he thinks this is reality . . . He spent four years in New York and became political, he was studying something; it was during the sixties, I’m not sure when. My friends’ pasts are vague to me and to each other also, any one of us could have amnesia for a year and the others wouldn’t notice.
The narrator observes David and comments on his past just before taking her friends to the island in Chapter 3. The narrator’s disdain for David’s enjoyment of Greenwich Village reflects her intolerance for tourists who come to Quebec seeking an authentic outdoor experience. David is a city-dweller, and the narrator feels perturbed by his casual enjoyment of the trappings of outdoor life, such as fishing or chopping firewood. She inherits this disdain in part from her father, who used to size up men for their ability to live outdoors on their own. Another part of her resents the American tourists who seek out the wilderness only to spoil it.
The flippancy with which the narrator describes David’s political conscience is in fact justified. David knows politics only superficially, and his nondescript anti-American sentiment comes across as a weak substitute for true political knowledge. Also, his background in New York seems ironic given his anti-American leanings. The narrator continually juxtaposes David’s anti-American statements against his clear adoption of American culture. Though he says he hates America, David imitates American cartoons and loves baseball. David’s years in New York help build a picture of a hypocrite who claims to hate Americans and yet is dominated by American culture.
The narrator’s admission that she knows little about her friends’ backgrounds emphasizes the superficiality of nearly all of her relationships. The narrator remains unable to commit to people emotionally. She retains only insubstantial friendships, which she recognizes. The same message comes across when she comments that Anna is her best friend, and then admits they have known each other for only two months. The narrator’s withdrawal from her friends points to her role as a social outcast. An intensely private and introspective woman, this passage emphasizes the gap between the narrator’s thoughts and her outward appearance to the other characters.