The use of the first-person narration sets the tone of the story and enables the author to describe the development of the character in a more engaging manner and to convey the major idea of the text more convincingly.
The choice of story-telling mode significantly depends on the goals which the writer sets and the effect which he or she wants to produce. If the task is to place the audience into the position of the protagonist and show them the inner world of this individual, the first-person narration is arguably the most helpful approach. It helps to render the feelings, emotions, reactions to the events, and so forth. As a rule, it set a slightly conversational tone and in this way, the authors usually try to establish a dialogue between the leading character and the readers. This eventually makes the story more touching and engaging. Moreover, when the readers look through the eyes of the storyteller, they are able to look at the same problem from a different and probably unbiased perspective. In order to substantiate this standpoint, we may refer to such novellas as James Joyce’s Araby, On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning written by Haruki Murakami, and The Lesson by Toni Bambara. The three authors take full advantage of this stylistic device but the exact usage has some distinctions. They manifest themselves in the tone and the evolvement of the key protagonist.
The role of the first person narration
The feature, which immediately attracts attention, is the writers attempt to address the audience by using the personal pronoun “you”, for example, in Murakamis story, the unknown narrator uses colloquial phrase “Tell you the truth” (Murakami 1). Toni Bambara also gives preference to this technique which eventually produces an impression as though Sylvia is talking directly to the reader. In his turn, James Joyce avoids doing it. His novella reminds childhood memories of an adult man who struggles to shape his thoughts into words and confess his most intimate feelings to someone. Still, in all three cases the first person narration gives deep insights into the inner world of these people. We can get a better understanding of their cravings, fears, personal traits etc.
Despite the fact that the themes explored in these works are different, this form of story-telling serves to conveys the ideas of the writer. For instance, Murakami shows that the perception of beauty is always subjective and there are no universal criteria of assessing it. The protagonist says, “Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of girl – one with slim ankles, or big eyes…. I have my own preferences” (Murakami p 1). The woman he has met does not appear particularly good-looking, but for him she is the embodiment of beauty.
Subsequently, Joyce strives to demonstrate how timid and shy an individual is at the turn of childhood and adolescence and the experience of a little boy is by far the best way to develop this topic. Thus, it is quite possible to argue that this story-telling mode is not accidental in these novellas, because it makes events or ideas more colorful and realistic. Certainly, we cannot say the overall effect would have been ruined without the first person narration: however, it would have considerably diminished. For example, in her story The Lesson, Toni Bambara would not be able to fully recreate the atmosphere of a street in an inner-city or to show the cynicism of the protagonist. This evidence partially proves that the role of storytelling is crucial for every literary work. Nevertheless, the form of story-telling is the only way of influencing the audience.
The tone of the story
The tone of the story is closely intertwined with the narrative mode. In Murakamis work, casual and conversational tone aims to reproduce the experience which people may have almost on a daily basis, although they seldom pay attention to it. The protagonist encounters a beautiful girl or woman, to be more exact, and he is too afraid to talk to her. He plagues himself with questions “How can I approach her? What should I say?” (Murakami, p 19). Such experience is very widespread but people quickly forget about it or at least try to erase these events out of their memories.
Toni Bambara also chooses conversational tone, but she pursues a different goal. She intends to emphasize Sylvias rudeness, callosity and cynicism at the present stage of her life. Even the first sentence of the text indicates that this woman takes a very contemptuous attitude towards the others “Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and foolish and me and Sugar were the only ones just right” (Bambara. unpaged). We can presume that now Silvia is not different from those people whom she despises and Toni Bambara sets stress on this fact throughout the text. The most striking detail is the use of obscenities and those words which denote dislike and sometimes envy, especially when Sylvia refers to a new-comer with “her goddamn college degree” (Bambara, unpaged).
In Araby Joyce avoids conversational style, his story resembles a confession; this is why the style is more tentative or even solemn. The writer uses words which are not typical of a boy who says “I see myself as a creature, driven and derided by vanity” (Joyce, p 18). These words are rather unlikely to be used by a child or even adolescent. The tone is the inseparable component which makes the analysis of the literary work more comprehensive.
It should be pointed out that such genre as short story imposes restrictions on the author. He or she has to remain within certain limits, which means that it is not always possible to fully develop the character. Nonetheless, we can say that in all cases, the protagonists are not just static figures they undergo changes in the course of the story. In the novella The Lesson, a naïve girl grows into an embittered woman, who regards her past with disdain. Joyce strives to describe the changes of a timid boy on his path to manhood. Murakami shows the inner struggle of an adult man who desperately wants to overcome the barrier between himself and the beautiful female stranger. The characters appear to be thoroughly developed probably because many readers have been in such situations and this experience is familiar to many of us.
The narration mode, tone and character development are the essential elements of a literary work. The study of these elements throws light on the authors ideas, and the theme, explored in the story. They explain how the protagonist has changed within a certain period of time, and whether this change has been for good or for bad. The novellas, discussed in this essay immensely rely on the use of the first person narration. It renders the message of the text and makes the plot more persuasive and realistic.
Bambara T. C. “The Lesson” 2009. Web.
Joyce. J, Brown T. Dubliners. Araby Penguin Classics, 1993.
Murakami. H. On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning BukAmerica, Incorporated, 2009.