What I Didn’t See, Karen Joy Fowler

February 6, 2010 scitina
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The narrative written by Karen Joy Fowler immediately, by the title, puts an emphasis on the event the narrator does not see. What I Didn’t See has a female narrator that describes how men take advantage of these two women merely because they are women and not because of their intelligence or talent. The men use these women because if they were to complete their mission of hunting the gorillas, that they were women would deter other big game hunters from the gorillas. During this trip, Beverly goes missing and the main character misses how this happened. The narrator is sent home and not until years later does her husband revealed what she had missed seeing.

According to statements made earlier in the narrative, I immediately thought I knew what happened to Beverly the day she went missing. I wasn’t sure of the details but earlier in the story cannibalism was mentioned as well as the two women having to hide their bodies in fear of being eaten. “Beverly and I would have tried, only we couldn’t bathe without the nuisance of being spied on. Whether this was to see if we looked good, or only good to eat, I did not wish to know.” ( 342) From the beginning I believe they foreshadowed the event that would eventually take place. The fact that when this statement was made, they were sitting by a body of water wishing they could undress and wash themselves but were in fear. At the end of the story when Beverly is removed from the story, the last place she was seen was by a stream of water with the other woman, the main character. I think it was very interesting how this connection was made between the two incidents. It isn’t very clear but I believe it was included for a reason.

The event the narrator didn’t see was thought to be her disappearance due to a gorilla but eventually her husband reveals the evidence that it was discovered Beverly was taken by the porters accompanying the mission. He said he noticed their strange behavior and anger. The reader then realizes that the event the narrator didn’t see was much more violent than imagined.


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  • 1. polythene0pam  |  February 6, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    I think that’s an interesting interpretation of the story and of what happened to Beverly. The way I read the story is that Beverly actually went away from the hunters to live with the gorillas. It seemed to me that the narrator’s husband, Eddie, thought this as well because he responds to his wife’s suspicion of the porters by saying, “No… [t]hat’s my point. But you saw how the blacks were treated back at Lulenga. You saw the chains and the beatings. I couldn’t let them be suspected” (354). Though the narrator didn’t “see” this connection between the way the natives were treated and the atrocities they would be made to endure if they were suspected of abducting a white woman, she does when Eddie explains it to her. She sees their humanity and their need of a protector. But, the question remains, was the price too high?


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