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COMPOSITION AND CONTENT ORGANIZATION. TYPES OF NARRATION
As a narrative a work of fiction employs certain techniques creating a vivid character, setting a scene, developing a plot, arranging events to have a relation to one another. In order to establish significance in narrative, to raise the level of generality, to extend or complicate the meaning, there will often be coincidence, parallel or contrasting episodes, repetitions of various sorts, including the repetition of challenges, crises, conciliations, symbols, motifs.
The traditional narrative-compositional forms are narration about events (narrative proper), description, dialogue, argumentation.
I. Narrative properexists as:
· The author’s narrative supplies the reader with direct information about the author’s preferences and objections, beliefs and contradictions, i.e. serves the major source of shaping up the author’s image (the unfolding of the plot is mainly concentrated here, personages are given characteristics, the time and the place of action are also described here, as the author sees them). In Charles Dickens’s book A Tale of Two Cities (1859) the author’s narrative describes the setting of the novel – England and France of 1775 – the way he sees it: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some authorities insisted on its being received for good or for evil in the superlative degree of comparison only”.
· The figural narrative situation has no visible narrator and presents events through a character’s perspective. The entrusted narrative takes place when the author’s function is entrusted to one of the personages. It makes the writing more plausible, impresses with the effect of authenticity of the described events. Thus, in H. Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) the entrusted narrative is presented in the first person singular. The narrator tells the story of mono-maniac Captain Ahab, who swears vengeance on the White Whale that has crippled him. Ishmael is the only participant of the hunt who survives to describe the tragedy firsthand:“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world”.
· Represented inner speech conveys feelings and thoughts of the character that remain unuttered. Study how Susan Hill represents the inner speech in A Bit of Singing and Dancing (1973): “She thought, I can stay out here just as long as I like. I can do anything I choose, anything at all, for now I am answerable only to myself”.It is characteristic of John Galsworthy to include represented speech into the author’s narration without any perceptible transition from one to the other: “He became suddenly conscious that he was doing an indelicate thing. To have brought Fleur down openly – yes! But to sneak her in like this!” –the episode from To Let (1921) reveals the shock the main character got coming unexpectedly on his mother when he was meeting a girl secretly – “Something like despair ravaged the heart of his watching Fleur. If she left him for Winfred! But surely – no – her father, her house, her dog, her friends, her – her collection of – of – she wouldn’t – could not give them up!” Sometimes a third-person narrative shifts into adopting the point of view of one of the characters. Unless you read carefully, you may assume that it is still the narrator’s voice.
There are two techniques for representing consciousness in prose fiction. One is interior monologue, in which the grammatical subject of the discourse is an “I”, and readers overhear the character verbalizing his or her thoughts as they occur. The free direct representation of an “ordinary” stream-of-consciousness in interior monologue quotes the character’s thoughts. Narrative mediation gives way to the character’s psychological association. Being half asleep in bed, Molly Bloom (James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)) thinks about her first encounter with her husband: “…all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes then I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls use or shall I wear red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to again yes and then he asked me…”
The other method renders thought as reported speech (in the third person, past tense) but keeps to the kind of vocabulary that is appropriate to the character, and deletes some of the tags, like “she thought”, “she asked herself”, etc., that a more formal narrative would require. This technique in which the narrator’s voice merges with the voice of a character or characters is sometimes called free indirect speech. It gives the illusion of intimate access to a character’s mind, but without totally surrendering authorial participation in the discourse. E.g. “ Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer’s men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning – fresh as if issued to children on a beach.” (Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925)). The first sentence is a statement of an authorial narrator, but an impersonal one without explanations who Mrs Dalloway is. The next sentence moves the focus of the narrative into the character’s mind adopting free indirect style.
II. Description gives a mental picture of something that can be seen or perceived through the other senses. Description is used to depict scenery (landscape, seascape, townscape), premises (interior), appearance (portrait), things of material world. Description is static, it may be detailed and direct or impressionistic, giving few but striking details. The order of writing description can be spatial or the order of importance. The emphasis is usually laid on attributes. Pay attention to the vivid description given by Tony Parsons in Man and Boy (1999): “The car smelled like somebody else’s life. Like freedom. It was parked right in the window of the showroom, a wedge-shaped sports car which, even with its top off, looked as sleek and compact as a muscle. Naturally it was red – a flaming, testosterone-stuffed red. (…) I just liked the way it looked. And that smell. Above all, that smell. What was it about that smell? Amidst the perfume of leather, rubber and all those yards of freshly sprayed steel, you could smell a heartbreaking newness so shocking that it almost overwhelmed me. (…) I knew that smell from somewhere and I recognised the way it made me feel. Funny enough, it reminded me of that feeling you get when you hold a newborn baby. The analogy was far from perfect -– the car couldn’t squint up at me with eyes that had just started to see, or grasp one of my fingers in a tiny, tiny fist, or give me a gummy little smile. But for a moment there it felt like it just might”.
III. Dialogue (the neutral scenic narrative) reports the conversation of two or more people; the speaker’s exact words are reported or imagined. Dialogue brings the action nearer to the reader, makes it seem more swift and intense. Dialogue is the main component of drama, but it also can be seen in the emotive prose. Writers use dialogues to give their readers a sense of immediacy and involvement. In the story An Encounter with an Interviewer (1874) Mark Twain resorts to dialogue to show a parody on the American press: