EL5221 Discussion: Session 7

The Narrator & Point of View

Discussion date: 3rd October 2006

1) Analyse the relationship between transitivity and point of view in the given passage. In particular, you should select and analyse the relevant processes associated with the narrator and the two main characters, and how these processes are related to the narrative perspective(s) and voice(s) found in the passage. If some of the verbs connected to speech and thought are not respectively realised by verbal and mental processes, what is the effect on the style of the passage? (In other words, if relational processes, for example, are used to realise thought processes, do they make the language of the passage and the thoughts described, ‘concrete’, ‘definite’, ‘static’ etc.?)

2) What is the relationship of the author and the narrator to the narrative? Is there any linguistic evidence in the text which points towards the presence of the author? Are you of the view that the author is less important in a first person narrative when compared to a third person narrative, or concomitantly, that the narrator of a first person narrative is more important than the narrator of a third-person narrative? (You can compare the passage below with passages or works written from the third person point of view, such as passages (a), (b) and (d) in your discussion handout for the fifth session).

3) Do you feel that the narrator of the given passage has gone beyond his bounds by knowing too much, thus making the narrative unrealistic?* What is the purpose of narrating events which one does not actually have a precise or first-hand knowledge of?

4) Do an analysis of clause complexing in relation to whether the sentences are simple, compound, complex or compound-complex. How does an analysis of the structure of the sentences or the clause complexes contribute to your analysis of the style of each paragraph and the style of the passage as a whole?

5) What is your view of the absence of projecting clauses with the first-person narrator as the subject in many of the clauses? Is this a means by the narrator to hide the fact that he is not omniscient, or does the narrator do this for rhetorical or discoursal reasons? (You may want to argue for example, that the narrator does this in order to avoid repetition, or because it is understood that once you have an earlier clause with the narrator as the subject of the projecting clause, all subsequent clauses are, by default, the thought or words of the narrator).

*Note: The scene described obviously occurs before the birth of the narrator. (Back to question 3)

Relevant lecture notes: nos. 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. You may also want to take a look at chapter 7 of my Narrative Theory cyber-book.

Extract from Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

My great-grandfather was in love, and although he managed to hide all the signs of his despair from Lucinda, he was miserable. He made little jokes about the natty gents in checked waist-coats, laughed, patted her arm, but whatever happiness he felt he saw only as a sign of all that would be denied to him. This was because he had an idea in his head, and I do not mean the idea that he had promised to reveal to Lucinda at the dinner table. This was another idea, quite separate. The idea that caused the real trouble was the one that Lucinda herself had lodged in his head — that she was in love with Dennis Hasset. She had done everything possible to make the idea stick. She had left the swollen envelopes on her mantel for days at a time. She had told him she was in love. She had spent hours of her Sunday at her secretaire. The letters grew so fat that they required excessive amounts of red wax to seal them properly.
    The idea had taken hold, and such was the stubborn set of Oscar’s mind that it would not easily be knocked loose. So it did not matter that she took his arm. It was the prior action, the snatching away, that stayed in his mind. It was here the truth seemed contained, and in the second act, the taking of the arm, he saw only pity.
    Oscar did not like Dennis Hasset. He had not met him, but he did not like him. Not that he imagined the man had bad qualities. Quite the reverse. He imagined him good, clever, handsome, generous, a manly man who would be attractive to a lady. He could think of nothing to do to press his claim in competition, nothing except to display an excess of goodness, of selflessness, as if this behaviour, this loving self-denial, would provide him with the rewards that selfishness could not.
    It was this that lay behind the dangerous wager he now planned to undertake in the dining room of the Oriental Hotel.
    There were only two other tables occupied in the cavernous black-and-white-tiled dining room. A farming family occupied a table pushed gracelessly against a fluted pillar. A single gentleman in a frock coat sat beside a window; he read from a chapbook while he ate.
    Lucinda was not hungry. She ordered as Oscar did. Her mind was occupied with the problem of how to undo delicately the clever knitting of her lies concerning Dennis Hasset. She could not concentrate on anything as ordinary as food.
    She thought: This is what it is like when you love a man. She watched him as he buttered his bread and cut it into nine small squares. Should not this hitherto alien act now feel dear to her?
    ‘Do you know what I envy you?’ she said. ‘It is that you are not constrained.’
    She meant: The way you walk, walk in here, your clothes like that, and do not give a hoot what opinion the waiters or the diners may have of you.
    He smiled, his piece of bread held between thumb and forefinger.
    ‘You do not mind who sees you or who hears you or what they think of you. You know your own value, I think, and this puts you in a strong position.’
    ‘And you?’
    ‘Oh,’ she rearranged a small pin in her hair. ‘I am too careful.’  

Last revised: 10 August 2006.