Narrator In Literature (Examples & Types)

Definition of Narrator

A narrator is generally refers to the character in the literature, who presents the story to the audience. The narrator can be defined as one of the basic components of the narrative fiction, as he or she is the one who interprets the story.

This entity may differ with reference to the point of view and the reliability, and degree of participation in the subject matter. The choice of the narrator reveals the view the reader has on events and characters, their personalities, and motives.

Types of Narrator

1. First-Person Narrator

The first-person narrator relates a story from his or her point of view using “I” or “we”. This is considered to be subjective view of the events since the narrator’s feelings, observations, and atmospheres are featured. However, first person narrators can be untrustworthy as the narrator’s perception and his/her interpretation of certain events or circumstances are restricted.

2. Second-Person Narrator

The story is told in the second person using “you” to address the reader directly. This type of narrative is not usually employed but it offers a more personal feel thus involving the reader in the story.

3. Third-Person Omniscient Narrator

Third person, omniscient is a narrative point of view where the narrator has full knowledge of the events and other characters’ consciousness. This kind of a narrator gives the reader a global perception of the story at the same time as giving understanding of diverse plots and characters.

4. Third-Person Limited Narrator

Third-person limited narrator looks at the events from one character’s point of view and uses he, she or they when describing it. This type of pattern gives a more personal insight into certain events, but narrates only what a particular character is aware of. This makes it special due to the close relationship it develops with the audience.

5. Unreliable Narrator

An unreliable narrator refers to a character whose credibility is compromised. His understanding is unreliable, biased or psychologically disturbed. Such a narrator can introduce interesting complications in the story as the readers themselves try to separate the truth from the narrator’s biased point of view.

6. Stream-of-Consciousness Narrator

A stream of consciousness is a mode of constructing a story on the free-associative type of a narrator who simply translates his/her perception of events into the reader’s perception of events. This type of storytelling can be very effective when it comes to psychoanalysis of characters, yet, it might be rather confusing to audience because of its disunified approach.

Examples of Narrator in Literature

Example#1

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Narrator: Nick Carraway (First-Person Narrator)

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.'”

Nick Carraway plays the role of a pessimistic and an optimistic narrator, whose main role is to describe what occurs in the story in detail with some biases. What he sees and how he reads the characters and the world of the novel influences the reader’s view on Gatsby and the world of decadence he lives in.

Example#2

“1984” by George Orwell

Narrator: Third-Person Limited Narrator

“Winston kept his back turned to the screen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing. A kilometer away the Ministry of Truth, his place of work, towered vast and white above the grimy landscape.”

The plot is told from the first person perspective of the protagonist Winston Smith revealing events and ideas within the socialistic dystopia of Big Brother. This perspective enables the readers to relate with Winston’s struggles and challenges on the inside.

Example#3

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Narrator: Third-Person Omniscient Narrator

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

The narrative technique that Austen uses is point of view that is third-person, which means that the narrator of the novel has access to the character’s consciousness. This opening is quite famous, and it emphasizes the narrator’s capacity for observing society’s codes. Employing the style of irony, the author creates the conditions for the plot development with regard to the themes of marriage, social status, and gender expectations during the reign of the Regent George IV in England.

Example#4

“If on a winter’s night a traveler” by Italo Calvino

Narrator: Second-Person Narrator

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice–they won’t hear you otherwise–“I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.”

In the excerpt, the second person narrator has been used. The narrator directly addresses the reader. He creates an fascinating and interesting experience. He gives instructions and describes the actions and thoughts of the readers. By doing so, the narrator involves the reader into the story, which make them an active participant. The distinctive narrative style vague the line between the reader and the text. It enhances the sense of involvement and connection with the novel.

Example#5

“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

Narrator: Unreliable Narrator

“True!–nervous–very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses–not destroyed–not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily–how calmly I can tell you the whole story.”

The gaslighting applied by the poet to his character makes Poe’s narrator a fine example of an unreliable narrator. Protagonist’s words in the beginning of the story immediately call the attention of the audience to the question of the reliability of the narrator. The creation of suspense occurs through this technique because the reader starts to doubt everything the narrator is saying.

Example#6

“As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner

Narrator: Multiple Narrators

“Jewel and I come up from the field, following the path in single file. Although I am fifteen feet ahead of him, anyone watching us from the cottonhouse can see Jewel’s frayed and broken straw hat a full head above my own.”

The narrative point of view employed in the novel is the multiple first person, more specifically, each chapter of the book has a different narrator. This technique enable the reader to view events in the society from different angles and therefore, provides more than one version of the event. This way the author emphasizes how people’s experience and their memories may be diametrically opposed to the facts.

Literary Devices Related to Narrator

1- Stream of Consciousness

Stream of consciousness is a device that attempts to indicate the profuse thoughts and feelings that pass through the mind. This technique is associated with the modernist movement in the literature.

2- Frame Narrative

A frame narrative is a technique in literature, where the main narrative sets the stage for a more emphasized second narrative and a series of shorter stories.

Examples of Narrator In Literature
Examples of Narrator In Literature

To conclude, the choice of narrator and narrative technique is a difficult decision for any writer. It basically shapes how a story is told and received. First person narration creates a strong connection between the reader and the protagonist. It offers deep insight into their thoughts and feelings. However, it limits the narrative to a single perspective. The third person allows a broader view of events and characters, however, it can create more distance between the reader and the characters.

In the end, the choice of narrator and narrative technique should serve the story’s needs. It enhances its themes, characters and overall impact.

See also: Literary Devices That Start With N

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