1. What is the narrator?
This question is easy: the narrator who is telling the story. The choice of this intermediary between the writer, who would be the creator, and the reader, to whom the work is destined, is a key determinant of the success of which is narrated.
The narrator should have COHERENCE, which is achieved through TONE, ie the emotional attitude that the narrator has with the topic. The tone comes from the personality of the narrator, and covers the entire story as a coating that gives it unity.
The POINT OF VIEW is another factor that makes the narrator effective, that is, that the reader gets the information about the story adequately. Every plot, every story has a voice, a voice that lends it greater possibilities.
What criteria should be followed when classifying the narrator? A criterion to classify the narrator would be spatial, where we would focus on the narrator’s position regarding the narrative. This criterion would distinguish three types of narrator:
Homodiegetic or internal [homo = same; diegesis = history]: It is narrated from the narrative action itself, in 1st person. If the author adopts this position, at the beginning they could offer the reader a greater sense of closeness. The narrator is part of the plot and the information which the reader receives depends on this narrator.
Heterodiegetic or external [hetero = different; diegesis = history]: This is a voice that is outside of the story it tells. That voice doesn’t belong to the narrative, it is on a different level, without participating in it. Its main characteristic is the use of the third person. It gives the reader an impression of greater neutrality, distanced from the narrative. The narrator does not participate as a character in the narrative. This type of narrator determines the kind of information we can provide the reader
Autodiegetic: This type of narrator is reserved for biographies or autobiographies. The narrator and the author are the same, blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality.
Another possible classification would be Genette’s, which eliminates the differenciation of the narrator through person in favour of a method that distinguishes between an omniscient and limited narrator. Genette adopts this method because of the difficulty to discern where the criteria of the character and where the criteria of hte narrator begins. In practice, both techniques are combined, as the narrator can explain a fact which refers to the character in first-person, as she can narrate something that happened to her in the third. To Gennette there is always a first-person speech.
Here we will focus on a third classification: the narrator from the viewpoint (Focus).
3. Types of narrator from the point of view (Focus)
Focusing analysis tell us who you see or perceive what is told, the means the narrator uses so that the reader perceives what is being narrated in a certain way. Focusing is also called point of view or perspective.
The narrator, who has certain characteristics and limitations that will define how the author can tell the story, sees the story depending on her place within the narrative, from her point of view.
The narrators, by this criterion, can be grouped into three types.
3.1. First Person
The narrator is a character in the story (homodiegetic).
a. Protagonist Narrator.
Through this type of narrator, the reader has access to everything that the protagonist knows. To the future, however, she does not have access. Nor has the narrator the ability to penetrate the minds of other characters, or to know facts not lived, heard or read.
Which capabilities does she have? It’s as easy as putting yourself in her place and using logic. If we told our own story, what would I know and what would ignore about myself and my life? Can we enter the mind of another person? Can we know details that we didn’t live, hear or read?
How far can this narrator go? The level of subjectivity, that is, the intensity with which we access the consciousness and feelings of the narrator, will depend on the type of story. So, in an adventure story will focus more on the outside than on the inside, on action. Maybe we won’t enter the protagonist’s mind, because the story does not need it, because everything that happens, happens outside their awareness.
Narrators of this kind focus on subjectivity, we are told what she feels, thinks and the reasons of it all. The center of the story is the narrator’s mind, what happens outside is of little importance unless it has a reflection on her subjectivity.
In the extreme of such subjective narrator we find the interior monologue or stream of conciousness. The writer’s goal is that the reader accesses the stream of conciousness, what goes through her mind. In its quest for realism, it subjects the reader to the swings and disorders of thought.
b. Witness Narrator.
The narrator is not able to penetrate the consciousness of the protagonist, cannot tell what she feels, what she thinks. She tells us the facts as a direct or indirect witness of what happened.
We can find two types: the detective narrator, that occurs mainly in the thriller and police stories, where she is useful to smuggle information to the reader; and the interim narrator, which stands at the margin of action so much that she doesn’t even get involved in it. She tells the story second hand, what she has heard through another person or through a text found by her. In many cases, this scheme gives more credibility to the text as it is introduced by a narrator who gives us dates, information or documents that give an air of reality to the narrative.
3.2. Second Person
In this case, the narrator (I) tells the story to an other (you). That recipient (you) does not answer to the narrative, it is only present in the mind of the narrator. It is the least common of the narrators.
3.3. Third person
The third-person narrator is almost always out of the story, so it’s a heterodiegetic narrator. In this case, the characteristics of the third person narrator are:
– She doesn’t act, judge or express her opinion about the events she narrates.
– She has no physical form, neither inside nor outside the story.
However, we can distinguish three types of third-person narrators depending on their knowledge of the narrative world.
3.3.1. Omniscient narrator
She knows more about the story than the protagonist. The omniscient narrator is characterized by a complete knowledge of all events, past and present, knowing even the future; and by an ability to know the thouhgts of all the characters in the story.
This type of narrator offers the reader a panoramic, a bird’s eye, view of the story told.
This type of narrator dominated nineteenth century fiction.
3.3.2. Equal Narrator
This type of narrator is also known as limited third-person narrator. She knows the same as the protagonist about the story. She focuses on the protagonist, and she tells only about what the protagonist is involved in. This protagonist is not the narrator, as this one has no physical form. She knows everything about the protagonist, but nothing about the other characters.
It’s similar to the first-person narrator, but with the difference that she can present information that might not appear in a first-person narration. So, this narrator may have details that are known, but that the protagonist can overlook. She can make comments that the protagonist would never make about himself, like the colour of his eyes or his personal shortcomings. These observations made in first person, about oneself, could be questionable, but by coming from the third person, they gain credibility.
3.3.3. Deficient Narrator
It is also known as objective narrator or quasi-omniscient narrator. This narrator knows less than the protagonist of the story. She records only what can be seen or heard, without penetrating the minds of any of the characters.
This narrator is merely a witness to the events that happen in the story.
Dialogue is one of the ways that this narrator has to go into the feelings or thoughts of the characters.
This type of narrator can not enter into the consciousness of the characters, nor interfere in the action, ie she can not review, comment on or discuss what happens.
It is a nearly invisible narrator.
3.4. Multiple Approach
The multiple perspective is when several characters refer to the same events from different points of view, interpreting it differently and combining several types of narrative.