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This is not an isolated case of when Neal assumes a dismissive response from a listener. At the beginning of the story, Neal admits that he ‘wasn’t happy at all,’ and that he ‘didn’t say this to anybody because it was such a cliché – ‘Tears of a Clown,’ ‘Richard Cory’’. Here, again, the acknowledgement of the banality of the expression of sadness causes Neal not only to expect criticism of it but to the extent to which he feels he should not even express it. It suggests that the acknowledgement of something as clichéd is not worthy of expression. What is also of note here is how Neal qualifies an expression’s triteness. He references two pop songs, one of which, ‘Richard Cory,’ parallels Neal’s life: an idolised man who, without expressing any inner turmoil to anyone, kills himself. On the subject of clichés, Wallace has stated that though they may be ‘so lame and unexciting on the surface’ they actually ‘[express] a great and terrible truth.’ Because the tragic tale of ‘Richard Cory’ has been subsumed into popular culture Neal believes its deeper truth – namely that a person’s exterior and interior are not always in concord – has been rendered commonplace and uninteresting. The verbal construction and the emotion have been conflated, and thus Neal believes himself to have what Amis terms a ‘cliché of the heart,’ which, as will be shown below, is a dubious phrase with severe consequences.
Coupled with Neal’s self-censorship of clichés is the story’s illustration of how language itself is an inadequate means of expression. Speaking of the difference between mental processes and the language that formulates them, the narrator states that what ‘goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.’ The immensity of consciousness, this suggests, is filtered into language which proves insufficient in its mode of expression. Indeed, to emphasise this point, the story has a moment of metanarrative in which it is revealed that ‘this back-and-forth between us has come and gone and come again in the very same instant…David Wallace blinks in the midst of idly scanning class photos.’ The nested narrative will be expanded upon in a later article; what is of focus here is the temporal distinction between mental processes and ‘sequential clock time we all live by.'
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