Tag Archives: James Joyce

Overhead to in Their Head

Heart of Darkness (1899) focused on imperialism and how it affects life in Africa through the perspective of Charles Marlow. In the story, most of the conflict was reflected externally and viewed through a narrator who had strong emotions towards the events but no lacked in focus on how it affected him, psychologically. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) marks a turn as even though everything is in third-person, the narration focuses on Stephen and both his internal and external conflicts as he grows up. This conflict even spills into the third-person narratives on many occasions. The progression that I have noticed is that the focus of the narrative started with a wider picture, where the narrator is not mentally attached to the story. Joyce’s novel marks a turn where character’s thoughts affect the delivery of the narration. This turn leads to novels like As I Lay Dying (1930) and Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937.) Both stories matter entirely because of the narrator. Faulkner’s novel is delivered with the focus on individual characters and how their thoughts directly affect their narrative. Hurston, on the other hand, still had a third-person perspective, for the most part, but the story was still Janie’s. Every emotion that she felt, whether conflicting or not, is there to be heard. As time progresses, the stories go from character driven to being the characters.

Internal Monologue Spoken Aloud

“That’s all, I think,” he murmured to himself. “Stay- I may as well have you –  you may come in useful – one never knows.”

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.

The direct quotation of an internalized thought spoken out loud is an interesting aspect of Sayers’ narrative form. Whereas in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, Joyce would use free indirect discourse to display the thoughts of a focalized character (Stephen) through the narrator, Sayers has Lord Peter speak his own internalized thoughts aloud. Joyce would even go as far as to have the narrator transcribe characters idiomatic phrases as the narrators own, bringing in the question of representation and narrative bias. By having Lord Peter speak his thoughts, there is less distance from reader to character, thus negating any possibility of a biased narrator.

The most interesting aspect of this quote is the phrase, “Stay- I may as well have you” as Lord Peter is alone in this scene. Its a questionable thought but it seems as if Lord Peter is speaking directly to the reader at this point. If so, Lord Peter’s actions would be concurrent with the typical conventions of a detective story, as this half of the quote strongly bolsters Peters bombastic ego. Needing a seemingly omniscient detective to retell the story of the crime in order to solve it is the mark of a conventional detective story, and this quote seems to reassure the reader that Lord Peter is in fact that character.