Focalization

“A focalizer is the agent whose point of view orients the narrative text. A text is anchored on a focalizer’s point of view when it presents (and does not transcend) the focalizer’s thoughts, reflections and knowledge, his/her actual and imaginary perceptions, as well as his/her cultural and ideological orientation” (JahnN3.2.2).

Whenever focalization comes to mind, the first thing I think of is Guillermo Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story.” At first we are introduced to Guillermo Segovia, who is depicted through an external focalizer’s point of view because a narrator is describing his actions. The audience is barely in touch with Segovia’s personal thoughts; rather we are given a description of them through the narrarator. As Segovia begins to write his story, Ofelia now becomes the protagonist, introducing an internal focalizer’s point of view. Every action and thought Ofelia produces is documented through her own words, giving off a far more personal standpoint as compared to an external focalizer.

Narratology and Literary Theory

“Practically all theories of narrative distinguish between WHAT is narrated (the ‘story’) and HOW it is narrated (the ‘discourse’). Some theorists, among them Gérard Genette, opt for a narrow meaning of the term ‘narrative’, restricting narratives to verbally narrated texts (Genette 1988 [1983]: 17); others (Barthes 1975 [1966], Chatman 1990, Bal 1985) argue that anything that tells a story, in whatever genre, constitutes a narrative” (JahnN2.1.2).

Narratology is the study of narrative. It consists of one school of criticism: structuralism. Similar to the scientific method and mathematic formulas, narratology is the scientific approach to reading literature. Narratology consists of semiotics, the study of signs and symbols, and linguistics, the scientific study of language and its structure. These two disciplines are reminiscent of an English course I took during the summer: Introduction to Literary Theory. It revolved around four different theories used in interpreting literature such as reader-response, new criticism, structuralism, and deconstructionalism. Since narratology consists only of one of these literary techniques, structuralism, then meaning is produced by a system (structure) of differences through binaries. Meaning is produced by relations of difference.

Half an Hour

“But they waited for about half an hour, at the end of which they began to pull the rope in with great ease because there wasn’t any weight on it, which made them suppose that Don Quixote had remained down below…” (Cervantes 636).

The element of time in novels is difficult to convey since an author is incapable of literally writing about the entire time span between two significant events. In this case, Cervantes uses “eventually” and “welcome back, sir” in order to indicate a passage of time. Although it took half an hour to bring Don Quixote back, the reader only spends approximately a minute reading the entire paragraph regarding his departure. Words such as “eventually” demonstrate an occurrence or sequence that has occurred. Don Quixote’s voice getting smaller and smaller is also another sign of elapsed time.

A Faithful Squire

Sancho Panza seems to be coming along for the ride when taking part in Don Quixote’s crazy adventures. He is down to earth and doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind when Don Quixote’s actions seem unfit.

“‘As for me, I can tell you I’m going to moan like anything about the slightest little pain, unless that stuff about not complaining goes for knight errants’ squires as well’” (Cervantes 65).

Although Sancho is recruited to serve as Don Quixote’s squire, he is usually found offering sound advice to his master, despite Don Quixote’s lack of interest. Don Quixote’s vanity overrides any rationality Sancho has to offer him because he is so self-absorbed with his knightly role that he overlooks the wise information his squire has to offer. Instead of giving Sancho some well deserved credibility, he looks down upon Sancho by laughing at his “simple-mindedness.” Sancho is faithful to Don Quixote’s cause and has proven to be quite an asset throughout his journeys.

Don Quixote is Sane

Don Quixote is such a lovable character because he has not lost his inner child. While some may argue that he is mentally unstable, I would counter by regarding his wild imagination as an asset rather than a liability.

“Finding, then, that he couldn’t move, it occurred to him to resort to his usual remedy, which was to think about some passage from his books; and his madness brought to his memory the episode from the story of Baldwin and the Marquis of Mantua in which Carloto leaves Baldwin wounded in the forest…” (Cervantes 48).

Dressing up as a knight and acting upon these knightly duties appears to be completely genuine to Don Quixote. It is something that he truly believes in, not because he is crazy, but because he is more down to earth than anyone else in the novel. His good intentions are a product of everything that we are taught to absorb in our childhood, which is why I’m confused as to why his niece and especially the priest fear for his wellbeing. If anything, they are the ones who have forgotten their roots, living their dull lives without the adventure that they were all raised up with. The decision to burn Don Quixote’s books seems counterproductive, in my opinion.

Fictional Narratives

“A fictional narrative presents an imaginary narrator’s account of a story that happened in an imaginary world. A fictional narrative is appreciated for its entertainment and educational value, possibly also for providing a vision of characters who might exist or might have existed, and a vision of things that might happen or could have happened” (JahnN2.2.2).

Fictional narratives provide authors and readers with a sense of escape that reality doesn’t always provide. It allows the author to bring their visions to life, which can lead to personal enlightenments from both authors and readers alike. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is an example of a fictional tale based off real life events and people. Although it is not a direct autobiography, it can be classified as a fictional narrative due to its similar happenings. The names and places from Bronte’s life have been altered, resulting in different outcomes, which may have been desired in reality. For example, Jane’s marriage to Mr. Rochester at the end of the novel could have been aspired by Bronte in reality considering she was single at the time of publication. Perhaps she was enlightened by her writing to marry a few years later.

Narration

“A narrator is the speaker or ‘voice’ of the narrative discourse (Genette 1980 [1972]: 186). He or she is the agent who establishes communicative contact with an addressee (the ‘narratee’), who manages the exposition, who decides what is to be told, how it is to be told (especially, from what point of view, and in what sequence), and what is to be left out” (SamperioN3.1.1).

Narration is crucial in storytelling because it can change the direction of the story at any given time. For example, while writing this blog entry, my audience is subject to my direct thoughts and opinions towards literature. However, I am fully capable of changing the topic to something arbitrary such as math and sciences. By entering the head of the narrator, anything can occur because the narrator can change the time of the events taking place as well. The narrator can flash back to the past or give an internal opinion on a character that they are currently speaking to. Unlike a homodiegetic narrator, a heterodiegetic narrator does not know what the characters thoughts are, and therefore can’t deliver the same in depth characterization.

Who Lived in a Story?

Guillermo Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story,” is a matrix narrative that delves into three different stories. However, great confusion arises when Ofelia acknowledges the existence of her fictitious author, Segovia, and her real author, Samperio, who is scripting the actual story.

“I insist on thinking that he writes with his typewriter precisely what I write, word upon word, only one discourse and two worlds. Guillermo writes a story that is too pretentious; the central character could have my name. I write that he writes a story that I live in” (Samperio 60).

The initial narrative about Segovia coming home from the lecture to write his story is presumed to be the primary narrative until Ofelia comes into the picture. Only now does it become questionable whether Segovia’s narrative remains the primary story after Ofelia begins writing about her current situation. Ofelia writes, “I write that he writes a story that I live in” (Samperio 60). This would convey that Ofelia is now responsible in choosing which direction the story will continue, rather than Segovia. Ultimately, the story as a whole is open ended and I can’t help but feel that Samperio did this intentionally.

The Matrix Narrative

Narrative levels conceal stories within stories. First-degree, second-degree, and third-degree narratives branch off of the matrix (mother) narrative.

“A matrix narrative is a narrative containing an ’embedded’ or ‘hyponarrative‘. The term ‘matrix’ derives from the Latin word mater (mother, womb) and refers to “something within which something else originates” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary). In linguistics, a ‘matrix sentence’ is one that embeds a subordinate sentence” (Jahn N2.4.1).

After analyzing these several types of narrative levels, the first story that comes to mind is Guillermo Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story.” A first-degree and second-degree narrative would not suit this story because there are three different layers of narrative: Samperio is writing about Segovia who is writing about Ofelia who ends up writing about Segovia. It would also be considered a matrix narrative simply because other stories are contained within a much larger story. An example of a first-degree narrative would come from Charles Perrault’s short story “Little Red Riding Hood.” The story is linear from beginning to end and shows no indication of delving into subordinate plots.

Homodiegetic vs. Heterodiegetic

“In the following I will therefore additionally use the terms suggested by Genette (1980 [1972]) — homodiegetic narrative (= roughly, first-person narrative) and heterodiegetic narrative (= third-person narrative). Diegetic here means ‘pertaining to narrating’; homo means ‘of the same nature’, and hetero means ‘of a different nature’” (Jahn N1.10).

Using an advanced vocabulary is essential in order to match the intellect of the scholars whom apply these terms in their writing. For example, instead of describing a piece of writing as “being narrated through a first person perspective,” I can substitute this elementary description with a far more precocious term: homodiegetic narrative. Not only does it sound more erudite, but it also enhances the legitimacy of the writing by appealing to a more sophisticated audience. An example of a homodiegetic narrative can be seen in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The story is told through the eyes of the main character, Duke, making it a homodiegetic narrative. A heterodiegetic narrative can be seen in Charles Perrault’s short story “Little Red Riding Hood,” narrated by an omniscient voice that does not take part in the events of the story.