With Euphoria, King crafts a statement on cultural norms, perspective taking, and emotion with precision and purpose, supported by her use of elements of style. It recalls the story three anthropologists, Fen, Nell, and Bankson who are living, loving, and researching in New Guinea among native tribes. The author recalls their struggles to maintain typical western lives and customs in the jungle, while also remaining objective, unbiased, and fitting in with the locals in order to document most accurate ethnographies. King uses setting, characterization, letters, journal entries, and point of view to convey their stories. The result is a visionary achievement that reflects both differences and similarities in peoples and cultures regardless of geographical location or economic status.
King uses elements of language to support her story and theme, as she literally provides the reader with alternating perspectives within the text. The story is told through Bankson’s first person point-of-view, Nell’s journal entries, letters sent from Bankson’s mother and Nell’s girlfriend, Helen. The native perspective is viewed only from the outsider point of view, indicating a distance and misperception of his or her thoughts, emotions, or ideas. Fen, Bankson, and Nell all have distinct ideas about the native experience. The reader is never limited to one way of viewing the story for long, and when it changes, the author highlights ways in which people think about the same situation differently.
Perspective is the central theme of the text, it’s the goal of the characters as researchers to maintain objectivity, despite the a priori assumptions, ideas, and emotions they have as humans. The author poses the question, are people always limited by subjectivity? The characters are never truly able to gain the knowledge and access they need through observations or interactions with natives. The reader sees, perhaps more clearly than the characters, their westernized ways of thinking, living, feeling, separate them from doing fieldwork and interacting with the natives, in ways that eliminate subjectivity. The author details the three anthropologists using alternate approaches to living among, understanding and bonding with the natives, which ultimately shows that even people from similar backgrounds and places think, act, and feel distinctively. King proves that despite similarities of all humans, perspective is unique to the individual and is easily misinterpreted by others.
In Euphoria, we see the human struggle to balance logic and emotion mind. It is human nature to socialize and to want to learn and grow from the experiences of others. But, it is the goal of the scientist, the anthropologist, to understand another culture without judgement. King tells her story with a proficiency that reminds the reader that even within our own culture, it is extremely difficult for people to observe others objectively. She encourages the reader to reflect that a large part of what makes us human; and therefore, illogical, is our capacity to experience emotions. In the novel, the reader decides if this is hindrance or a gift.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5