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Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter N

 

 

 

is for Narrator

 

 

 

The narrator is the person who tells the story. Narrators can be protagonists of a story, secondary characters in the story, or an unnamed persona uninvolved as a character in the story.

Narrators are not to be confused with authors. Even when the narrator is the uninvolved persona, the voice is a construct created by the author and not the author him/herself. Often the narrator is reliable in that s/he tells the truth, portraying an honest version of the story being told. Sometimes, the narrator may be unreliable, spinning a story later revealed to be just that—a story and not a truthful retelling of events.

Some interesting narratives I’ve read lately include Rose Baker, the unreliable narrator of Suzanne Rindell’s The Other Typist, and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, narrated by Death. Taking place during the early part of World War II, Death is ever-present. As a narrator, he focuses in on the characters and then pulls back to remind us he is always there, lurking in the shadows, audience to the players on the stage, waiting until just the right moment to cull their souls. Though I found this structure awkward at times, it works in the big picture when the reader learns that Death is a reliable narrator–when he says he will return for a soul when the time is right, he means it. He lulls the reader into a false sense of security, almost forgetting Death’s pledge to remove the character from the narrative and then he returns, reminding us of his presence.

Have you read any interesting, off-beat, or unreliable narratives lately? If so, share them in the comments below.