The Narrator is Confusing!

Hello folks,

It appears I have ruined my own blog post by actually speaking up in class for once- I was going to write about the audiobook, and it was going to be interesting (but was it though?). Anyways, I suppose I can still talk about it, though it may be marginally less exciting.

As I was saying in seminar on Wednesday, because I left my book in my dorm room when I went home for break (oops), and my local public library didn’t have it either, I ended up purchasing the audio book on iBooks, and listening to that instead. Like we were talking about earlier today, the chapters aren’t numbered, and the parts of the story are kind of here and there and not at all chronological. This made it feel like I was sitting down with the narrator, and we were just chatting. The structure of this book feels like a natural way of oral storytelling rather than a conventional carefully ordered and edited book. Obviously I know that this too was carefully ordered and edited, but in such a way that it can to an extent disguise itself as natural conversation– but that was only until I thought about the narrator.

There were moments when I found myself questioning who exactly the narrator is. Initially, I thought that I had been missing clear changes of point of view, just from not listening carefully enough, but after having actually looked at the book, there isn’t any explicit reasoning for the shifts in voice. Having the book would have helped, because despite the chapters not being numbered, there is at the very least a clear separation. In the audio book, the shifts in chapters were hardly acknowledged at all. Maybe there was a bit of a pause in between, but not significant enough that I noticed it to be a change in chapter.

Anyways, what I’m trying to say through all my rambling is that I thought there were multiple narrators. Sometimes I thought that Dorcas was speaking- especially at the end. But there are times where it seems like Violet. For example, on page 97(?) the narrator’s “I” is referring to Violet- so is it Violet speaking, or just the narrator giving voice to her? It’s very strange because it changes voices without saying “Violet said/ thought”. I’m pretty sure this happens again, in Joe’s chapter, where the “I” refers to Joe, but I can’t be sure (having not read the physical book, I don’t really have context as to what happens where unless we’ve talked about it). It’s sort of like a collection of bits and pieces of the same story being told by different people.

Additionally, in the audiobook, jazz music played gently in the background, but only in certain parts. I was going to go back and see if there was a theme as to when the music would start to play, but I realized I wouldn’t be able to do that in this blog post’s appropriate time frame- I might still do it later just for fun?

One thought on “The Narrator is Confusing!

  1. Christina Hendricks

    This is still very interesting, and I’m glad you spoke up in class! 🙂

    You’re right that the narrator shifts into Violet’s voice at times. I don’t have the book with me at the moment so I can’t give page numbers, but at the point where Violet is talking about “that Violet,” the narrator shifts from third person to first person sometimes. The voice moves from “she” to “I.” Now, this could be a signal that the narrator is moving into Violet’s head, as a narrator of a story can do, but such shifts can also happen in the third person, where a narrator talks about what “she” is thinking and feeling. This feels more like an intimate connection between the narrator and Violet at the point that we move into first person. And I’m not sure what to make of it. I don’t feel like the narrator is Violet all the way through, for example.

    The narrator also speaks in Joe’s voice at times, but in those sections there are quotation marks around what Joe is saying and a line break between what the narrator says and where the quotation paragraphs from Joe start. There is a signal that the narration has moved into a new voice, with the quotation marks. We don’t get that with the section about Violet where it goes into first person. No quotation marks there, and it moves really abruptly into first person with no break. And back out again.

    I honestly don’t know how to interpret why the narrator is written as if going in and out of the first person voice of Violet in this way. If I remember correctly, it happens shortly before Violet comes to realize that “that Violet” is “me.” So there’s some kind of unification happening within Violet, and within the narrator’s relationship with Violet I guess. That’s the best I can do at the moment!

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