Tag Archives: narrator

Narrative Strategies

Throughout the first ten pages of the novel the narrator describes the setting and places two old friends, Janie and Pheoby, in a conversation on a front porch. Pheoby asks Janie about Tea Cake. Janie provides a vague response, but when she realizes that Pheoby is ready to listen and understand Janie begins her life story, starting with a description of her childhood. This narrative strategy is used effectively so readers can understand events of Janie’s life that make her think and behave in certain ways. Chapter two continues mostly in form of Janie’s dialogue. At this point, I was worried that the entire novel was written in Janie’s dialogue, which is not easy to read because of her improper speech patterns. The dialogue is broken into paragraphs based on Janie quoting other people  and the development of new thoughts. Then, on page 11, there are two shifts in narrative voice,  the first shift goes back to the original narrator that described the women sitting on the porch, “Pheoby’s hungry listening helped Janie to tell her story…the night time put on flesh and blackness.” This paragraph is used to once again  show the women sitting on the porch and that the story of Janie’s life continues. Then, the next paragraph shifts to a new narrator, “She thought awhile and declared that her conscious life commenced at Nanny’s gate. On a late afternoon Nanny had called her to come inside the house because she had spied Janie letting Johnny Taylor kiss her over the gatepost.” If this narrator were to be physically present in the novel he/she would be sitting on the porch, listening to the women’s conversation. This narrator does not actually know the events and details of Janie’s past, he/she only knows as much as Janie discloses. The narrator listens to Janie’s story and translates it into a more comprehensive and intelligable writing. It is evident that the narrator does not know what happened in Janie’s past before Janie says so because the narrator says “She thought a while and declared.” Janie is the person who declared that her concious life began  then, not the narrator. The narrator does not have the knowledge or the authority to say, “Janie’s concious life commenced at Nanny’s gate.” Upon reading this paragraph I was relieved that Janie’s story would not be entirely reveled in her dialogue!

 

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Whose Thoughts Are These?

“In tender hearted natures, those that mostly never feel strong passion, suffering often comes to make them harder. When these do not know in themselves what it is to suffer, suffering is then very awful to them and they badly want to help everyone who ever has to suffer, and they have a deep reverence for anybody who knows really how to always suffer. But when it comes to them to really suffer, they soon begin to lose their fear and tenderness and wonder. Why it isn’t so very much to suffer, when even I can bear to do it. It isn’t very pleasant to be having all the time, to stand it, but they are not so much wiser after all, all the others just because they know too how to bear it” (page 110).

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” In Three Lives. 1909. Reprint, New York: Dover, 1994.

Throughout the story there tends to be passages of free indirect discourse various times, however this passage does not necessarily provide free indirect discourse. It is doing quite the opposite. This passage is fairly different & unique to the story. It’s almost as if the narrator is giving some form of insight to the reader. However, the main element that makes this passage so idiosyncratic or distinctive is due to the fact that “I” is used. It is not in quotes, so it cannot be dialogue & it doesn’t seem to reflect a character’s thought process. Can this be the narrator putting their two cents within the story?

Free Indirect Discourse

And yet, perhaps Melanctha really loved him. And then she would know how much it hurt him never any more, any way, to see her, and perhaps she would write a line to tell him. But that was a foolish way for Jeff ever to be thinking. Of course Melanctha never would write a word to him” (114).

Free indirect discourse is used in this passage when the narrator channels Jefferson’s thought process and says, “and perhaps she would write a line to tell him.” This line expresses Jefferson’s hope that Melanctha would write him back. The narrative voice then switches back to the omnicent narrator when he/she states, “But that was a foolish way for Jefff ever to be thinking.”