Redburn tells two stories at once. One is about an orphan, seeking himself in a world his father could not have imagined; the other is about a bachelor, the novel’s retrospective narrator, studying his lack of a desire for such conventions as marriage and fathering. Sometimes these two stories bolster one another; other times one bluffs or buries a secret on the other’s behalf. This essay explores the pleasures and enigmas of this queer dynamic. First, I examine the young Red-burn according to his attachments to other people and potential futures. Then I track the bachelor narrator’s adventure through four styles as he searches for one adequate to express his desire, or its apparent absence. Finally, I find that orphan and bachelor Redburns converge in a passage where another orphan, and an early lover named Harry Bolton, is called “my zebra.” Jacques Lacan’s exposition of metaphor is no less crucial to the argument than Peter Parley’s account of “Hunting the Zebra.” A concluding section of the essay defends the novel’s often disparaged ending, in which Harry’s end stands in for Redburn’s.


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pp. 1-25
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