You + You = You!

            I agree with what David says about how If on a Winter’s night a traveler “is an extended satire, poking fun at books, poking fun at both readers and writers, deliberately playing on tropes and complexities and insights, the ideas of structure and form, throwing in themes that mean multiple things at once, and recursions that continue on forever, in counters to counters to counters that purposely throw the reader this way and that.” For example, Last week the class was talking about how the second person perspective could be made into third person if we just refer to the main character as “you.”

            Later in the novel, however, the meta-narrator seems to step completely out of all levels or frames of narration to confront us; he, says “It is time for this book in second person to address itself no longer to a general male you…but directly to you who appeared already in the second chapter as the third person necessary for the novel to be a novel” (141). Calvino, once again, seems to know how the readers, male or female, might respond to the “you” character. He knows that a logical way to classify this character would be to just name him “you.” And yet, this idea kind of troubled me because of the way Calvino would still use “you” in the subject-verb agreement of the sentence.

            For example, even after the declaration on page 141, the author still uses the subject “you” as if it is in the second person: “You are having tea, sitting with her” (153). If “you” was really in the third person singular, the verb would be “is.” Later in chapter seven, the author seems to confront what I am thinking and writes, “You are in bed together, you two Readers. So the moment has come to address you in the second person plural, a very serious operation, because it is tantamount to considering the two of you a single subject” (154). I thought to myself, Of course! In second person plural, Calvino could still grammatically use “are” instead of “is” like he does earlier in the story.

            And now, even if “you” really is its own character, it is not a grammatical error because when “you” is brought up, so are you, the reader. So, Calvino uses or creates a hybrid second/third person perspective and, of course, the author cleverly and humorously establishes this new rule at the point when two characters are having intercourse turning the moment into yet another threesome in the novel. And, I think it’s very funny how the narrator calls this “a serious operation.”