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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Stuart's Daily Word Spot: Unreliable narrator

Unreliable narrator: A literary term for a narrator who, out of ignorance, bias, limited viewpoint, simple self-interest or through inability to tell the truth, cannot be trusted. Generally, this character appears in first person stories, of course. Probably the most well-know is Humbert Humbert, the wicked teller of Vladimir Nabokov’s tale, Lolita.
In my own romantic thriller, Breaking Faith, I employed the device of paired narrators, allowing the reader to see things from the points of view of both the male and female protagonists. I did this to illustrate that even the most well-meaning and honest of narrators can sometimes be unreliable and mislead the reader, even if unintentionally.

Other examples of unreliable narrators are:
Wuthering Heights - Lockwood and Nelly Dean.
Wilkie Collins’ detective story The Moonstone (1868), in which the plot unfolds through different characters, who contradict each other and reveal their biases.
In Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest  the narrator, "Chief" Bromden suffers from schizophrenia.  Since his telling of events includes people growing or shrinking, walls oozing with slime, and other bizarre events, the reader quickly recognises that this story teller is not to be trusted.
In Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby, the narrator, Mike Engleby, leads the reader to believe a version of events that’s increasingly at odds with reality.
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