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Narrative method


1. Types of narrators.

2. Narration: its types and forms of presentation.

The narrative method involves such aspects as

a) who narrates the story and

b) the way the narrator stands in relation to the events and to the
other characters of the story.

The author can vary the narrative method depending on what he wants his
readers to concentrate on. He can tell the story from the point of view
of a character in the story, or from without – as an onlooker.

The author may choose four types of narrators:

1) the main character;

2) a miner character;

3) the omniscient author;

4) the observer-author.

1. When the main character tells his story, the events of the story are
presented to the reader through his perception. The author in this case
places himself in the position of the main character and tells of things
that only the main character saw and felt.

2. When a minor character, who participates in the actions, narrates the
story, the events are described through the perception of his character.
The author places himself in the position of a minor character and gives
this character’s version of the events and personages.

3. The author may narrate his story anonymously, analyzing and
interpreting the character’s motives and feelings. The reader sees what
is going on in the minds of all the characters. This type of narration
is told by the omniscient (or analytic) author. The omniscient author
reproduces the character’s thoughts and comments on their actions.

4. The story may be told in such a way that we are given the impression
of witnessing the events as they happen – we see the actions and hear
the conversations, but we never enter directly into the minds of any of
the characters. In this case the reader is guided by the
observer-author. The observer-author merely records the speech and
actions of the characters without analyzing them.

2. In every story events are presented from somebody’s point of view.
Hence, there are two types of narration – 1st person and 3rd person
narration. When told by a character in the story, the story is the
first-person narrative. When told by the author, it is the third-person

If the story is a 1st-person narrative, it is told from the narrator’s
point of view and the reader gets a biased understanding of the events
and the other characters, because he sees them through the perception of
the character who narrates. At the same time any story always reveals
the author’s point of view even if it is implied. The character’s and
the author’s viewpoints may or may not coincide.

When the author shifts the responsibility of telling the story to the
1st-person narrator, he actually provides his reader with two versions
of one and the same story:

1) the explicitly expressed subjective version (the narrator’s version)

2) the implied objective version, which the skilled reader is expected
to derive.

There are several advantages of these two methods.

1) the 1st-person narrative is a very effective means of revealing the
personality of the character who narrates. The narrator tells what he
thinks and feels, and the reader easily understands his motives, his

2) These two narrative methods increase the credibility of the story.
The narrator’s statements are backed by the narrator’s presence in the
described events.

3) The story told by the 1st-person narrator is more confiding. The
narrator often uses the informal tone, addresses the reader directly and
establishes a personal relationship with him. The reader is treated by
the 1st-person narrator trustfully.

However, the possibilities of the 1st-person narrator are limited
because the narrator is a person, and he can see and hear only what
would be possible for a person to see and hear in his situation. He
cannot know what other characters do or say.

Sometimes such a narrator misinterprets the events which he cannot fully
understand. He relates them and meditates on them from his subjective
point of view. Thus the first person narrator necessarily assumes a
participant role within the fictional context and so adopts a subjective
perspective on events.

On the other hand the 3rd person narrator takes up the non-participant
role of observer and so adopts an objective point of view. If the story
is told by the omniscient author there are no limitations. He is
all-seeing and all-knowing. He may get inside his character’s minds, add
his own analysis of their motives and actions.

The omniscient author may also assume a detached attitude and tell the
readers all about his characters, concealing his own point of view.

The omniscient author may tell the story so vividly that his presence is
forgotten, the characters and the scenes become visible.

Such are the advantages of the narrative made by the omniscient author.

In the case of the observer-author, the story is a scene or a series of
scenes, narrated by an onlooker who does not interfere for any comments
or reflections of these events. The focus of interest is the study of
actions and events. The advantage of this narrative method is that the
observer-author lets the reader see, hear, and judge the characters and
their actions for himself. He stimulates the reader to form his own
impression and make his own judgements.

The narrative method conditions the language of the story. Thus if the
story is told by an omniscient author, the language is always literary.
When the story is told by a character, the language becomes a means of
characterization (as direct speech always characterizes the speaker). It
reflects the narrator’s education, occupation, emotional state and his
attitude. The social standing of the character is marked by the use of
either standard or non-standard lexical units and syntactic structures.

One has to keep in mind that the language of the 1st-person narrative
requires careful attention not only because it characterizes the
narrator, but also because it is a means of representing the world
through the eyes of that character. It therefore reflects his outlook,
his pattern of cognition, his psychology. That is why most stories
related by the main character are deeply psychological.

There are the following forms of presentation and literary techniques of
the narrative:

1) narrative proper, the presentation of events in their development. It
is the most dynamic compositional form of the text.

2) interior monologue, a rather lengthy piece of the text (half a page
and over) dealing with one major topic of the character’s thinking,
offering reasons for his past, present or future actions, which allows
the author (and the readers) to peep into the inner world of the
character, to observe his ideas and views in the making. This form of
narrative exercises the so-called stream-of-consciousness technique
which is based on the conception of the prevalence of the subconscious
over the conscious; hence the recording of unperceived by senses or
intellect emotions. It is especially popular with representatives of
modernism and brought into contemporary literature a deeper insight into
human psychology. Through SCT the narrator creates the illusion that
without his or her interference, readers have direct access to the
mental processes of the characters. As a result, the reader sees the
fictional world through the “mental window” of the observing
consciousness of the characters.

3) dialogue where personages express their minds in the form of uttered
speech. In their exchange of remarks the participants of the dialogue,
while discussing other people and their actions, expose themselves too.

4) represented (reported) speech which serves to show either the mental
reproduction of a once uttered remark, or the character’s thinking. The
first case is known as represented uttered speech, the second one as
represented inner speech. The latter is close to the personage’s
interior speech in essence, but differs from it in form: it is rendered
in the third person singular and may have the author’s remarks, i.e. it
reflects the presence of the author’s viewpoint alongside that of the
character, while interior speech belongs to the personage completely,
formally too, which is materialized through the first-person pronouns.

5) description supplies the presentation of the atmosphere, the scenery,
the details of the appearance of people and other things of the literary
work. Its basic types are objective and subjective. The objective
description is a factual account. It is usually detailed. The subjective
description gives only striking details. It focuses on the mood created
in the story communicated to the reader.

6) retardation, the withholding of information until the appropriate
time and the deliberate sustaining of anticipation by means of suspense.

7) the author’s digression is an insertion which has no immediate
relation to the theme. The author wanders away from the subject of the
narrative to state his personal view or to make a general statement.

8) a flashback is a scene of the past inserted into the narrative.
Flashbacks present the background information, appear in
non-chronological order and may be related to various characters. Many

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