A narrative text implies a narrating voice, an implicit speaker who presents the content to the reader. In other words, the author is Charles Dickens or D. H Lawrence, but to tells his stories he chooses a narrator. The narrator not only tells the story and describes places and people; he can also describe the characters thought and feelings, and evevn comment on them.
The choice of the narrator is one of the devices which form the structure of a novel. The narrator may appear to be distant or close at hand, an editor of printed materials or an eye-witness. There is a wide range of narrators, but the main categories can be reduced to:
- First-person narrator, or I-narrator: the narrator is one of the characters and is inside the story.
- Third-person narrator: the narrator is outside the story, he has nothing to do with the events presented in it.
When the narrator is outside the story (third-person narrator), we can have two main types:
- Objective narrator: who mainly observes people and events and reports what he sees and hears. Hemingway’s books are generally considered examples of non-committal, unobtrusive narration;
- Omniscient narrator, who has access to the characters’ thoughts and feelings and takes on the absolute knownledge of the author. This type of narrator can also be intrusive or assertive, and can often intervene to give his own views, to comment on the characters, to direct and help the reader interpret things correctly. Such interventions are often cast in the “timeless” present tense.
There are various strategies whose omniscient narrator have at his disposal, to inform the reader of the characters’ state of mind, reactions and motives:
a) The narrator directly describes what is going on in the characters’ minds, or how the characters are feeling;
b) The characters themselves declare their thoughts and feelings;
c) The characters behave in such a way that they reveal their feelings; d) The words and phrases which introduce direct speech contain indications of the way the words are uttered, like “stage directions”, thus conveying the characters’ state of mind;
Point of view can be defined as the angle of vision and perception from which a story or an event is focalized. The choice of view is called focalization, and it is extremely important because it determines the way people and events are presented.There are two main types of focalization:
External: the narrator is outide the story and reports what he happens to see and hear. Internal: a) the narrator is inside the story, he is one of the characters of the story, and presents things from his/her own point of view; b) the narrator is outside the story but is omniscient: he knows the story, thoughts and feelings of all the characters. The point of view varies, so that the events are presented through the eyes of several characters.
The ability to understand all these complex strategies of narration allows a deeper perception of the text and of the communicative aim of the author.