Ah Jung's Final Paper

Jennifer Wilson is a woman who is working as an office lady; she doesn’t do an outstanding job, or a bad job. She doesn’t create conflict with colleagues and has a fair number of friends. She drives a silver-colored Camry, makes a moderate amount of money, and she loves watching football games—a typical American. One day, she wants to create an account on an internet site. But soon she finds out that her usual ID, “jenniferw” is already being used by another user. She tries to think about another ID, but cannot think of any. All of the sudden, she starts to think about the other Jennifer with the last name that starts with W, who is using the same ID as her, and what makes her special and different from the other Jennifer W. and numerous other Jennifers. Though she knows that her name Jennifer is very common and that there are many other Jennifer W. exists, she has never thought about her identity or specialty. This Jennifer is panicked. People might have faced this type of confusion in their life at some moment. This trend of standardization, however, is occurring in our society; the individual lacks uniqueness. In Pattern Recognition, this unifying force is described as the world being a global village through the cosmopolitan figures like Cayce and numerous mirror world images. William Gibson suggests that people need to pursue their own identity against the world’s unifying force through a journey similar to Cayce’s in which she follows footage on the internet.

Recently, the world has been moving into a direction different from the previous diverging historical movement: rather than diversifying and composing a heterogeneous, varied cultural, and multi-traditional society as people have historically done, people are living in a homogeneous society through globalization. Globalization is one of the main themes that Gibson points out. Nowadays, the world has gone in such a similar direction that it become virtually indistinguishable in some ways. “Mirror-world traffic has [Cayce’s] foot foolishly working a phantom brake” (60), and she can hear the mirror-world sound of ambulances anywhere other than London (56). These substantially habitual images exposed from different places make Cayce to feel the places she visits almost identical to London. The numerous aspects of mirror-world that resemble London that Cayce encounters show this one-way directional evolution of cities: cities are converging due to globalization by losing their own characteristics. Gibson, however, essentially criticizes globalization by giving off an image of the influential commercial aspect of recent trends. A reckless and materialistic, huge, globally-forceful advertisement company, the Blue Ant, is one of the main subjects of criticism. While he is not interested at all in the contents of footage, Bigend, the head of Blue Ant, has bold ambition in contacting footage’s creator just for an advertisement. He hires Dorotea only for the same purpose while knowing that she is an industrial espion. These are the negative images that Gibson borrowed from the recent commercialistic movement of corporations. Also, using franchised mass-reproducible images that people unconsciously think cute, Gibson acutely criticizes the people’s unfiltered-passive taste.kogepan.jpg “Kogepan, the clueless-looking homunculus” (148), that is not as successful a global franchise character as Hello Kitty, which insinuates that people around the world are bedazzled by commercial advertisement and intention of corporations without sensing that those forces standardize themselves. Gibson intentionally uses the character Kogepan in order to criticize the conventional people who unconsciously like Kogepan—burnt bread that can be found everywhere and not successful at all as bread—because this burnt bread is an emblem of them. Those people’s banal life, which is indistinguishable from the other’s, resembles the one of Kogepan that possesses vacant face without any self-esteem or sense of individualism.

As a mean for seeking Cayce’s identity, footage serves as a very interesting point. In this novel, footage is described as the utmost product of originality while it has a power to touch anonymous people from diverse environments. Footage itself is an ironic content that serves as both the most original product, and at the same time, serves as a variety-creating force on network. The many mirror-world images and unifying forces prevalent everywhere are against the footage, whose source is unknown. However, footage that represents the opposite value actually draws people to be interested in it. With a single source of footage, people create variety from itself—people are divided into the “Progressive” and the “Completists” (49). This situation shows that people overcome the unifying force predominant on society and network by stimulating people to form an opinion. By provoking people to form their own opinion, footage allows each person to be an “individual” distinguishes from anyone else.

Cayce acquires her true identity through her journey following footage. Before she starts to follow the footage, she suffers by soul-delay, literally a “jetlag,” for a long time. However, symbolically, she doesn’t really have her soul, which is the most essential part of one’s identity. Since parents are the primary sources of children’s identity formation, Cayce, who lost her father, and who has to assume that her father is dead even without proper evidence, still suffers trauma about it. This unreasonable and unfathomable missing of her father is the main reason for her pursuit of identity. Cayce is a character who is especially attached to originality. Her aversion toward the commercial logos and brands are strangely strong, so that she even “de-DKNYied” her clothings’ logo to keep her CPU—which means Cayce Pollard Units, the clothing Cayce wears—to be completely original. She also favors her Rickson Jacket, which still bears the museum quality originality. This is where Cayce’s eager personal interest, in the footage initially begins. She thinks that “anything other than footage is Off Topic” (48). She considers the world, even the News are Off topic. Since Cayce is missing part of her identity due to the absence of her father, she tries to fill this void by following footage. Footage’s originality establishes its clear and unique identity, which Cayce is also trying to establish. Thus, when Cayce finally finds out that footage has been created by Nora, who has lost her parents in the same 9/11-related explosion that deprived Nora and Cayce of their father, Cayce superimposes herself on to Nora.
“[Cayce] feels as though something huge has happened, is happening [though] she can’t define it. She knows that it’s about meeting Stella, and hearing her story, and her sisters, but somehow she no longer is able to fit it to her life. Or rather she lives now in that story, her life left somewhere behind, like a room she’s stepped out of. Not far away at all but she is no longer in” (303).
At last, Cayce is rewarded for her fanatical following of footage. By meeting Stella and Nora, Cayce realizes the reason for her vacant feeling deals with identity, and gets the data existing about her father’s disappearance, so that she can finally get over her obsession to find her identity through the search for his father. This becomes Cayce’s brand-new beginning; from this moment, Cayce differentiates from past Cayce who is relying on anything that might helps supporting her. She recognizes and admits her identity crisis and starts her new life to build up a new identity of her own, separate from her father: she changes her e-mail address and falls in love with Peter. From that very moment, Cayce thinks: “[Win’s] very missingness becoming, somehow him” (302). Cayce finally accepts the fact that her father is gone. Now, she is not trying to fill a vacancy by finding her father and sticking on her clothing but rather is finally admitting his absence.

William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition deals with society’s prevalent identity crisis, using ill-effects of
globalization, a complex character, Cayce Pollard, and her journey for identity. In contrast to figures like globally loved character Kogepan, which symbolizes current identity deficient individuals, Cayce’s obsession with apparel and logos seems odd. However, it is her unique method to find what really she is. Also, through the Cayce’s happy ending, Gibson suggests that people need to maintain their own virtue of oddness as a part of their identity against societal unifying forces.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License