Jacob’s Room was first published in 1922. The tale follows Jacob throughout his life, from his childhood, through his college education at Cambridge, several trips, and concludes with his death in World War I. Although the book follows Jacob throughout his life, Jacob never seems to be developed as a primary character; in fact, it may be stated that he often appears to be like a ghost in his own life, given the impossibility of ever truly knowing a person; we know Jacob through the sequence of his life and by specific moments of his life only; as the audience we can never truly know Jacob.
This type of thought process leads us to the question of knowledge. Is it ever possible to truly know an individual, know their thoughts, their purposes, their inner drives? Or do we only see these individuals on the surface, as Jacob is seen in Jacob’s Room? What I would like you to consider today is whether you feel that you know yourself, truly know yourself. Are you sure of what you would do in any situation, or do you find that you occasionally surprise yourself? If you yourself cannot know yourself, how can you know anyone else?
People have favorite characters that they identify with in books; they feel like they know every aspect of that character, often feeling closer to the character in the book than they do with flesh and blood humans. Like Jacob, those characters are unknowns, just as we ourselves are unknowns, but are some individuals more ghostly, like Jacob, less developed, less known, than others? Is there a gradient scale that might be created and used in order to address such a question?