Although John Barth’s “Night-Sea Journey” from Lost in the Funhouse is barely six pages long, it is quite a journey, actually one which quickly expands into several voyages occurring simultaneously. Our first impression of the story is not at all like the second reading; it is a journey of a character we first assume to be human, a character we later realize is a sperm. This does not, however, stop us from reading the sperm as human, since he has a human voice and poses very human questions, it merely adds another layer. The sperm telling the story is an individual, but also a carrier of genetic heritage, the human voice, a purveyor of cultural heritage. The story itself is also implicated in the question of how it can be a unique work of art and still part of its literary heritage. The author does not resolve the question of identity and heritage, but hints at an acceptance, possibly a celebration, of our uncertain existence.
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