Third Response/Draft for Final Paper

Nadia Harpaul

Professor Alvarez


June 27, 2011

The Importance of Ascertaining the Speaker: Focalization and Narration by Cervantes and Samperio

(introduction: introduce focalization and narration as the main topics of discussion and the two literary works)

Stories gain a deeper meaning and connection for their readers through the eyes in which they are seen and the voices through which they are told.  Point of view, especially multiples points of views, in a story offers varying perspectives and insight into the happenings of a narrative.  In literature, this point of view reference is referred to as focalization; it can be thought of the eyes through which a story is being told.  In addition to the various ways in which a story can be seen are the multiple ways a story can be told, which deals with narration.  Each character or narrator brings their own unique voice and makes a distinct claim as to how they prefer readers to interpret a story.  Mastering narration in writing allows authors to toy with the ability to manipulate how their stories are told; subsequently, understanding the ways in which narration works aids the readers in better grasping the story in a more profound way.  The closer readers come to comprehending narration and focalization in a story, they closer they come to being in tune with the author’s vision.  In Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel Don Quixote, and Guillermo Samperio’s contemporary short-story “She Lived in a Story,” both authors rely heavily upon focalization and narration to tell their tales in a way that is memorable for their readers.      

(2nd paragraph: define focalization and quote Jahn)

Focalization, according to Manfred Jahn’s “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative,” is the way a story is presented to its readers.  Jahn describes external focalization when “the primary candidate for a text’s perspectival orientation is the narrator” (Jahn N3.2.1) and internal focalization as when information from a text is restricted to a character’s field of perception (N3.2.1).  A focalizer is, “the agent whose point of view orients the narrative text” (N3.2.2); essentially, the focalizer is the eyes through which we see the story.  In a given story, there may be multiple focalizers, which is referred to as variable focalization.  Both Cervantes and Samperio utilize variable focalization in that there is, “the presentation of different, episodes of the story as seen through the eyes of several focalizers” (N3.2.4).     

(3rd paragraph: focalization in DQ/uncertainty of narrator)

In Miguel De Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote de la Mancha, mastering the concept of focalization is key to understanding the story as jumps back and forth between external and internal focalization or from a narrator’s point of view to that of a characters.  This constant switching between an unclear narrator and a character’s perspective causes uncertainty and questions the validity of the events that unfold.  This idea that the unreliability of a novel stems from the external focalization of the story is evident in Don Quixote de la Mancha.  The narrator speaks blatantly of this uncertainty when he/she writes, “but this doesn’t matter much, as far as our story’s concerned, provided that the narrator doesn’t stray one inch from the truth” (Cervantes 25).  A bit further on in the novel, he/she then again states, “… and if anything worthwhile is missing from it, it’s my belief that it’s the dog of an author who wrote it that’s to blame, rather than any defect in the subject. At all events the second part began like this according to the translation:” (Cervantes 76).  The previous quotes support the concept that due to the external focalization or the narrator’s perspective, the readers gain a sense of inaccuracy or unreliability about the story.  Don Quixote de la Mancha, when told from a narrator’s point of view, leaves much to be desired and leaves the readers questioning whether or not they should take the written words for face value or not.  When Cervantes wrote, “but this doesn’t matter much, as far as our story’s concerned, provided that the narrator doesn’t stray one inch from the truth,” leaves his readers with a feeling of being perplexed.  Questions as to why this had to be stated or who the narrator actually was began to take rise.  Referring back to Jahn stating, “the primary candidate for a text’s perspectival orientation is the narrator” when discussing the external focalization, helps to dissect Cervantes’ quote. 

(4th paragraph: focalization in DQ/unreliability of DQ himself/quote examples)

 (5th paragraph: focalization in Samperio) “She Lived in a Story” is a creative, modern take on story telling in that focalization is toyed with in a nontraditional sense.  The concept of a story within a story allows readers to delve into the eyes of multiple characters and narrators.  *go into detail of the story and explain the multiple characters and their perspectives*

(6th paragraph: focalization in Samperio/quotes and examples)

(7th paragraph: define narration and quote Jahn)

N3.1.1. As regards the question Who speaks? Who is the text’s narrative voice? we are going to use the following definition of a narrator, or ‘narrative agency’:

  • A narrator is the speaker or ‘voice’ of the narrative discourse (Genette 1980 [1972]: 186). He or she is the agent who establishes communicative contact with an addressee (the ‘narratee’), who manages the exposition, who decides what is to be told, how it is to be told (especially, from what point of view, and in what sequence), and what is to be left out. If necessary, the narrator will defend the ‘tellability’ (N1.5) of the story (Labov 1972) and comment on its lesson, purpose, or message.

N3.1.4. Depending on how the presence of a narrator is signaled in the text, one distinguishes between ‘overt’ and ‘covert’ narrators:

  • An overt narrator is one who refers to him/herself in the first person (“I”, “we” etc.), one who directly or indirectly addresses the narratee, one who offers reader-friendly exposition whenever it is needed (using the ‘conative’ or ‘appellative’ discourse function), one who exhibits a ‘discoursal stance’ or ‘slant’ toward characters and events, especially in his/her use of rhetorical figures, imagery, evaluative phrases and emotive or subjective expressions (‘expressive function’), one who ‘intrudes’ into the story in order to pass philosophical or metanarrative comments, one who has a distinctive voice.
  • A covert narrator, in contrast, is one who exhibits none of the features of overtness listed above: specifically, s/he is one who neither refers to him- or herself nor addresses any narratees, one who has a more or less neutral (nondistinctive) voice and style, one who is sexually indeterminate, one who shows no ‘conative solicitude’ whatsoever, one who does not provide exposition even when it is urgently needed, one who does not intrude or interfere, one who lets the story events unfold in their natural sequence and tempo (“lets the story tell itself”, as is frequently, though not uncontroversially, said [Lubbock 1957 [1921]: 62; qtd Genette 1988 [1983]: 45]); in short, one whose discourse fulfills no obvious conative, phatic, appellative, or expressive functions. Covert narration can be most easily achieved by letting the action be seen through the eyes of an internal focalizer (N3.2.2).

N3.1.5. Following Genette, we will make a categorical distinction between two principal types, homodiegetic and heterodiegetic narrators and narratives. The distinction is based on the narrator’s “relationship to the story” (1980 [1972]: 248) — i.e., whether s/he is present or absent from the story.

  • In a homodiegetic narrative–, the story is told by a (homodiegetic) narrator who is present as a character in the story. The prefix ‘homo-‘ points to the fact that the individual who acts as a narrator is also a character on the level of action. A special case of homodiegetic narration is autodiegetic narration, in which the narrator is the protagonist of his/her story.
  • In a heterodiegetic narrative–, the story is told by a (heterodiegetic) narrator who is not present as a character in the story. The prefix ‘hetero-‘ alludes to the ‘different nature’ of the narrator’s world as compared to the world of the action.

(8th paragraph: narration in DQ)

(9th paragraph: narration in DQ/examples and quotes)

(10th paragraph: narration in Samperio)

(11th paragraph: narration in Samperio/examples and quotes)

(12th and 13th paragraphs: conclusion tying both stories together and summarizing key points)

Works Cited

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