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Reliability and Narrators
Transcript of Reliability and Narrators
Point of View
What is it to be reliable?
Scottish; see rely + -able. Not common before 1850
See You in the Cosmos
“And I said, Thank you for pretending to be my adult. He said, No problem, I hope you find what you’re looking for, and I told him I’m not looking for anything, I’m launching a rocket, remember? And the kind laughed and said, That’s right, and then he left and -- Oh, DUH. I bet he was talking about the sounds from Earth I wanted to record for you guys. That’s what he hopes I….Hey! Maybe the older kid has a girlfriend! And he can be my man in love! I’m going to go find him later and ask him.” Pg. 25
“Terra loves the water. She said she
doesn’t spend enough time in it. She said
whenever she gets in a lake or an ocean, it feels like she’s returned to the earth. I said, That makes no sense because you never left the earth and she said it’s just an expression, it’s more like when she’s in the water she feels like she’s in her most natural environment. I said, Oh, that makes a lot more sense because we originally evolved from colonies of bacteria in the ocean hundreds of millions of years ago. I told her also our bodies are made mostly of water, so if you about it, it’s like if you fill up a water balloon and put in a bathtub full of water, then the the only thing that keeps the inside water separate from the outside water is the skin of the balloon, and if the skin wasn’t there there’d really be no difference. Terra said that’s very deep, and I told her you can do it in a sink too, it doesn’t have to be as deep as a bathtub.” Pg. 156
Reliability and Narrators
First Person: Narrates Own Story
"I did this." "He said to me."
Second Person: Tell someone else's story (rare)
"You walk down the street
and hear a bird calling to you."
Third Person: Voice outside the story
"He laughed when she said it."
The omniscient narrator can know whatever the author chooses: what any character is thinking, what an animal or inanimate object experiences, what will happen to characters in the future.
Omni = all
Scientia = knowledge
Omniscient = all-knowing
Sees only from
Someone close to the protagonist, but not the main hero. The same things in the above type apply to this type, but the focus of the story moves away from the narrator.
Relatively straightforward, this is a story the hero narrates. He’ll narrate the same way he talks, but with more description and perhaps better grammar. The reader is privy to all his thoughts and opinions, which means we get to know the hero faster, and often relate to him more easily
2. The Secondary Character
1. The Protagonist
3. The Detached Observer
A detached third person narrator sticks to telling the story, and never inserts his own opinions—never slips in an “I” or a “me” except in direct dialogue. You probably won’t notice voice at all.
4. The Commentator
This type never physically enters the story, but freely adds in his own amusing commentary. Allows voice without the complication of using an existing character.
5. The Interviewer/Chronicler
This type has collected the details of the story after it happened, such as by interviewing the characters. This lends a sense of reality to the story.
6. The Unreliable
Usually first person, but occasionally third, an unreliable narrator has a flawed point of view. That is, the writer intentionally made him biased, misinformed, insane, etc. Examples include Nelly in Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, or Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Cannot be trusted
May mislead the reader
Distorts truth (perhaps cannot see truth)
Causes reader to "read between the lines"
Misinterprets what is heard/seen
Is unable to understand (immature, mentally-ill, self-centered, etc.)
Etymology: reliable (adjective)
early 14c., "
to gather, assemble
" (transitive and intransitive), from Old French relier "assemble, put together;
," from Latin religare "fasten,
" from re-, intensive prefix (see re-), + ligare "
" (from PIE root *leig- "
to tie, bind
"). Sense of "depend, trust" is from 1570s, perhaps via notion of "rally to, fall back on."
Etymology: rely (verb)
See You in the Cosmos
1. What is the difference between a reliable person and a reliable narrator?
2. Does a lack of knowledge or social insight
make someone unreliable?
3. Who are we responsible to be reliable to? Why?