With regards to narrative technique, novelists have proved themselves to be a conservative bunch: several fairly “standard” forms of narration exist, and authors tend to stick to them. Of course, these options are apparently fairly varied, ranging from hindsight to omniscience; and passing through dozens of other permutations… What more could we, the reader, possibly want? What more could the writer possibly offer? Such traditional techniques all have the same basic structure: we watch the whole story unfold through one set of eyes, as if we were seeing it happen, or maybe recalling events as we saw them. In the real world, however, we rarely witness entire sequences of events ourselves: we are often told about what happened, and from what other people tell us we then weave together a coherent whole. Sometimes the bits don’t even fit together properly. We have learnt to interpret information presented to us, we enjoy noting the discrepancies and accounting for them. Yet this is all too often precluded by the very structure of the novel: we have to sit back and relax. We are, in a sense, on rails.
Thus it comes as no surprise that Milan Kundera, an author renown for his interest in the Novel as an art from, has proposed his own personal solution to this “problem” of inflexible narrative form: multiple narrators. His first -and maybe most famous- novel, The Joke, has indeed a total of four story-tellers, each describing events from “their” point of view, as their lives intertwine and then diverge. The stories both complement and contradict each other, it is up to us to extrapolate the “truth” that lies somewhere in-between. Each reader, I suspect, will come away with a subtly different rendering of the story; their own personalised version.
... the German Nazi movement. The first crucial event that is seen in the short story is, as stated before, between Supreme ... them see for themselves. As we see in the second event in Gardners short story, Septus ruling sent society into complete disarray. ... shows the evolution of his fictitious society through three crucial events between Supreme Patriarch Septus XXIV and Anton Leeuuenhoek, Charles ...
The Joke starts in a deceptively simple manner, although maybe somewhat vague. We are immediately “incorporated” into Ludvik Jahn: we see through his eyes, we read his thoughts. There is nothing apparently unusual in the narrative technique of Part 1; it is a perfectly normal first-person narration. Only at the beginning of Part 2, when we are suddenly confronted by a new narrator, the rambling Helena Zemanek, do we notice the unusual structure of the novel. This first “narrator switch” also alerts us to the necessity of having some way of distinguishing between the various story-tellers: Ludvik’s thoughtful, self-critical style becomes his trademark; just as Helena’s “verbal diarrhoea” -verbose, colloquial, confusing and incomplete sentences- becomes hers. Although not yet important (narrators are not yet “mixed up”), differentiating between the various narrators is vital if we are to understand Part 7; where the baton is rapidly passed from one narrator to another. By then, the various narrators’ leitmotifs are the only way for us to distinguish between them.
The actual “relationship” of these various narrators and their narratives is most clearly seen in the central “flashback” section of the work, starting with Ludvik in Part 3, and ending with Kostka in Part 6, passing by Jaroslav and then Ludvik again. It is here that the various narrators retell the story of Ludvik’s life, or rather, how it mingles with theirs; they tell us their own subjective interpretations of events. This is particularly true for the Ludvik-Jaroslav duo, where the two versions complement each other almost perfectly; one need look no further than the funeral of Ludvik’s mother for an example of this. Although merely hinted at by the son himself, who mentions in passing his “mother buried beneath alien marble”, it is dwelt upon with considerable detail by Jaroslav.
The Effect of the Use of Irony on the Progress of Poe's Short Story, 'The Black Cat " This Paper will interpret a short story, 'The Black Cat', by Edgar Allan Poe. My Purpose is to show the effect of the use of irony on the progress of the short story. I Suspect that use of irony in Edgar Allan Poe's short story, 'The Black Cat,' is one of the main points which allows the hidden character of the ...
Kostka, on the other hand, serves a different purpose: he contradicts Ludvik by reiterating the story of Lucie, the love of Ludvik’s life, supposedly oblivious to the fact that the two ever met. By not giving Lucie a direct voice in the book (she is rarely even quoted), by having all her thoughts and actions interpreted, Kundera drives home one of the book’s main points: that we know everyone as a function of ourselves. Even Zemanek, Ludvik’s arch-nemesis, the wrongdoer, turns out to be a far nicer person than the revengeful Ludvik remembers, or can even bear. In the end, Ludvik is forced to admit that he has Zemanek him all these years because he needed to hate him, he needed to see him as evil incarnate.
Part 7, a real tour de force, finally shows what this abundance of viewpoints can achieve when put to its fullest use: a cinematic succession of cuts, setting a mounting pace and pulling the reader into the story. No longer are long-past events merely recounted: things are happening “here and now”. All the main characters are finally in the same place at the same time, it is time for a climax.
Kundera now uses his “agents” in a new way, bouncing us from one mind to the next, as if each character were some kind of TV camera, and the author was a director intent on showing us every facet of the Ride of the Kings. Often the same event is replayed from several points of view: Ludvik’s jettisoning of Helena, for example. First we see it through his eyes, the whole affair seems nothing but a mildly embarrassing chore, “he” even goes as far as saying that “It was far worse than I had foreseen”. Yet whole experience is so traumatic, so brutal, for Helena that she refuses to accept Ludvik’s words and attempts suicide. The way we see events depends on who we are. Watching history unravel, being unable to control it, is another theme central to the novel.
Kundera’s use of many narrators, his collation of viewpoints, has brought the novel closer to reality: it is sometimes bewildering, just as if we were reading someone’s personal diary, full of implicit references and assumed knowledge. Presented with testimonies, we must decide what is going on, who is right and who is wrong; we are necessary for the story.
Victoria Hubble October 14, 1999 Character Analysis Essay #4 The Story of an Hour, by Kate Chopin is an ironic story because, Louise Mallard realizes the independence that she gains from her husbands death. The moment she realizes this freedom, and is willing to take this new way of life into her arms, her husband returns, and she dies. Mrs. Mallard has a revelation of all these liberations she ...
Not only do the narrators serve the purely functional role of informants, their different styles, their different outlooks on life, their different paces, add an extra dimension of interest, they make the prose somewhat dynamic. An entire novel written “à la Helena” would be painful to read, but her occasional interludes are undoubtedly very amusing. It gives the book character, and, above all, it keeps us interested.
Maybe the most surprising effect of all is how legible the end result is; the alternation of various people telling the story is so well orchestrated as to be almost seamless, virtually unnoticeable. After a lifetime of reading single-narrator stories, one would expect that this sudden multiplicity would be at least apparent to the casual reader. But it is so natural for us to hear different points of view that we hardly notice; we’re used to it.