Patchwork Girl, Completionism, and Power

I want to expand on a comment I made on Hayley Atkins’ post, regarding the purpose of Patchwork Girlas a cyborgean narrative.


It was really interesting to find out that I was the only person in the class who indicated their frustration with Patchwork Girl  and missing parts of the narrative, in a perfectionist/completionist sense, and it got me thinking, where did this compulsion to read everything come from? Perhaps it comes from my background in video games, when I would incessantly look up FAQs and guides to totally beat a game to death. But still, what is the origin of the need to totally accomplish every task, wether that be in video games, or reading a novel, or other textual/interactive media?

I argue that this obsession comes from seeking control. Growing up, everyone around me emphasized that “knowledge is power,” and while they intended that within the context of education, it can apply to almost anything, and it certainly applies in going through Patchwork Girl. In the same fervor that Victor Frankenstein sought “nature to her hiding places,” I sought to unlock every hypertext link in Patchwork Girl. I felt that I had to read everything to have power over the narrative, to say that I pursued it to its fullest extent and vanquished it despite its elusiveness. But that’s not how it played out: not only did I get frustrated with the idea of missing texts, but I was also leery that I’m not going in the right sequence. Suffice it to say, there was no way I was going to beat this narrative.

That’s the beauty in Patchwork Girl. Coming from my privileged background (i.e. I’ve never not had my way when consuming media), I thought that I was going to be in control of the narrative, but instead, the narrative controlled me. As Jilly Dreadful puts it, “The metaphor of objects gaining sentience and having demands (or words having lives), and possibly destroying the world in the process, can be seen from the Seneca Falls Convention to the writings of Karl Marx to the Civil Rights movement: it’s the cultural fear that the oppressed will become the oppressors . . . technology has usurped the supernatural to become the emergent arena in which our cultural fears and fantasies play themselves out.” As a cyborgean narrative, Patchwork Girl successfully eluded oppression and caused anxiety in its (privileged) readership through its nonlinearity, and it highlighted the strength in those marginalized by society and gives voice to them. To want to have total control over the piece, to vanquish it, to read it to death, is the is the preferred (if you can call it that) reading, the main stream reading, the oppressive reading. To let the narrative immerse you and to get lost in its complexities and to grasp the brokenness/wholeness of the characters is the oppositional reading, the cyborgean reading, the liberating reading.