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Transcript of Unreliable Narrator
You don't believe everything
Why use an
Surprise (sometimes) for the reader
Helps readers understand the
1. Liars and
Edgar Allan Poe's Montresor in
"Cask of Amontillado" and the narrator of "The Black Cat"
4. Has access to only
2. Mentally ill
Ex: Chief Bromden, a schizophrenic mental ward patient, from
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
3. Young, innocent,
Ex: Scout from
To Kill a Mockingbird
shown here with her father,
Ex: Nick Carraway from
The Great Gatsby
1. Compare the
narrator's words and his/her behavior
2. Check new information against facts from earlier in the story.
5. Can process only
Ex: Mystery narrated by Christopher John Francis Boone,
a 15-year-old boy with Autism
Ex: Holden Caulfield from
The Catcher in the Rye
Do you always know what is...
Can you always spot what is
you shouldn't believe
everything you're told
by a narrator,
"So, let me tell you
this crazy story..."
What the author wants us to actually see
What the narrator tells us
We need to fill this intentional gap with our own inference.
Author = Narrator ≠
power of perspective
And one you
Jon Scieszka's children's book
From the Big Bad Wolf's perspective
Wolf explains away his behavior
Do we believe him? Should we?
1950, Japanese film
Tells the story of a horrific murder from
four different eyewitness accounts,
all of which contradict each other
Makes us wonder about the nature of
Won Academy Award
Nothing to do on a Friday night?
Both of these stories are on YouTube!
Some similarities (like narcissism and disdain for authority), but these narrators have very different motivations in sharing their stories with us.
Ex: Story of a brain surgery experiment gone awry told
via a series of progress reports
from patient Charlie Gordon
on the page...
"You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another..."
From this opening, how do we know
Huck Finn will be an unreliable narrator?
That's right! If he's so comfortable with lying, then he'll probably lie to us, too. Right?
How I Met Your Mother
How can you know
if a narrator is
lying to you?
a critical eye.
Is there a discrepancy?
Again, look for discrepancies.
3. Apply what you already know about the world
You may be young,
but you know a lot
about the world.
Trust your judgment.
Now, it's your
turn to try
First, choose a
villain from a story
you know well.
Then, write a full page
diary entry in the
voice of this villain.
Be sure to try to make your
reader sympathize with the villain.
I promise I won't tag you.
I just got your text.
(Two hours ago,
but I didn't feel
Sorry, I'm busy Friday night.
(Not really. I'd just rather
waste time on Instagram
than hang out with you.)
Huck Finn's opening line: