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The way Karen Russell handles the theme of internal consciousness in “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979” is deeply thought-provoking and multifaceted. The use of third-person limited point-of-view is an especially effective device for this story because of Nal’s constant struggle with wanting to separate himself from his own consciousness. It is almost as if he wants to exist in the position that Russell places her readers in, where he would be able to see the actions of himself as not belonging to himself; he longs for the type of lucidity that the narrative style is able to provide for the reader, and that Nal is unable to provide for himself.

Nal seems to internalize the external and externalize the internal, which is another effective way for Russell to play with the idea of the fickle nature of consciousness. In the beginning of the story, the character marks himself by his words and actions, feeling heavy blame for every small mistake and taking those mistakes and attaching them to a part of his identity. What he considers to be outside of his identity, interestingly enough, is his conscience, which he tries to project on to the frequently visiting seagull. In separating his words and actions from a sense of right and wrong in this manner, Nal is able to pursue Vanessa without much inner-conflict. By the end of the story, Nal sees himself only as the physical being that ends up with Vanessa, and can then ignore the emotional taxation that would occur as a result of stealing his brother’s girlfriend. Nal’s sense of right and wrong develops in a way that allows it to become unattached to his words and actions, which is what makes this sort of recklessness possible in a character previously ridden with so many anxieties.

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