The short story “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story” by Paul Auster is told by a first-person narrator. In the “story within a story”, the narrator switches from Paul to Auggie. Both narrators give us insight into their thoughts and feelings while telling their stories.
The narrators are subjective and make assumptions about the other characters which may or may not be true. For instance, Auggie assumes Ethel knows he is not her grandson, and he also assumes the reason why she is pretending: “She was old and dotty, but she wasn’t so far gone that she couldn’t tell the difference between a stranger and her own flesh and blood. But it made her happy to pretend” (ll. 148-149). Auggie’s assumption might be true or it might only be his attempt to justify his actions.
Paul wonders whether Auggie’s story is true upon seeing the “look in his eyes” (l. 213), which was “mysterious” (l. 213) and “fraught with the glow of some inner delight” (ll. 213-214). Therefore, he concludes (probably correctly, but we cannot know for sure) that Auggie is delighted that Paul has enjoyed his story enough to believe it is true. As a writer, Paul recognizes Auggie’s craftsmanship: “I had been tricked into believing him, and that was the only thing that mattered.” (ll. 215-216). The possibility of Auggie’s unreliability is a key element in the story. This makes readers wonder about the reliability of storytellers in general, and the difference between a story being true, or it being merely believable.