The term "voice" metaphorically invokes one of the major grammatical categories of verb forms



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Narrative Voice
The term “voice” metaphorically invokes one of the major grammatical categories of verb forms – tense (temporal relations between narration and story), mood (those dealing with the different points of view from which the life or action is looked at, their forms and degrees in narrative representation), and voice (dealing with the way in which the narrating itself is implicated in the narrative, along with its two protagonists, the narrator and his audience, real or implied) (Genette). Whereas tense and mood both operate at the level of connections between story and narrative, voice designates the connections (or relationships) between both narrating and narrative and narrating and story.
In terms of voice, a verb is either “active” or “passive” (active voice: emphasizes the subject as the doer of the action, passive voice: deemphasizes the doer of the action and makes the subject the receiver of the action.) In a more general definition, voice indicates :
“The mode of action (ie. tense) of the verb considered for its relations to the subject” – the subject here being not only the person who carries out or submits to the action (character), but also the person (the same one or another) who reports it (narrator), and, if need be, all those people who participate, even though passively, in this narrating activity (Author/Narratee/Reader).

Gérard Genette, Narrative Discourse, p. 213


Communication Situation
In order to analyse narrative voice it seems worth while to identify the different participants, or “subjects” in the narrating activity. In order to do so, we have the following graphics below which in represent the general scheme of literary narrative communication:

(Graphic: Manfred JAHN: "Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative")

 


Real Implied (Narrator) (Narratee) Implied Real

author author reader reader


(Chatman’s model, in Shlomith Rimmon, Narrative Fiction, p. 87)



AUTHOR READER The first “box” or “frame” is on the level of nonfiction or real communication, the author of the story, and any reader of this text are situated on the same level of communication. Since author and reader do not communicate in the text itself, their level of communication is an “extratextual” one, and thus outside of the range of our narrative analysis – just as in the second graphic, the Real author and the Real reader are left outside the narrative transaction.
- The relationship between Defoe, the real author, and us, the real readers
*We are going to avoid the debate that surrounds the terms or implied author, implied reader and whether or not they should be considered participants in the narrative communication situation, or whether or not it is possible to not have a narrator or narratee as suggested by Chatman’s model*.
IMPLIED AUTHOR : Some critics have defined this “entity” as the author’s second self, thus the governing consciousness of the work as a whole, the source of the norms embodied in the work.

A few things to keep in mind:

- the two (real author / implied author) need not be the same person: an author may embody in a work ideas, beliefs, emotions other than or even quite opposed to those he has in real life, and just the same he may also embody different ideas, beliefs and emotions in different works.

- as well as being distinct from the real author, the implied author is distinct from the Narrator: while the Narrator can only be defined as the narrative voice or speaker of a text, the implied author is voiceless and silent: he must be seen as a construct of the text – according to Shlomith, “a set of implicit norms rather than a speaker or voice, if follows therefore that the implied author cannot literally be a participant in the narrative communication situation


IMPLIED READER: Just as the implied author, the implied reader is a construct (characterization of the text) and just as the former differs from the real author and narrator, in the same way the implied reader differs from the narratee / addressee and the real reader.
NARRATORADDRESSEE : This is the first level of communication. The narrator (as defined by Shlomith), is “the agent which at the very least narrates, or engages in some activity serving the novels narration in communication with another agent which is at the very least implicitly addressed by the narrator”. This level concerns narrative mediation (or narrative discourse). It is also he who chooses what information to be included, or not included.

- In our story the situation is quite clear as the fictional narrator Robinson Crusoe narrates the events of his life to an audience, which he names in the text:


I believe the reader of this will not think it strange if I confess that these anxieties, these constant dangers I liv’d in, and the concern that was now upon me, put an end to all invention, and to all the contrivances that I had laid for my future accommodations and conveniences. (139)
CHARACTERCHARACTER On the second level, on the level of action, characters speak and communicate with one another.
- We find one example of this in Crusoe’s conversation with Friday, when he asks him how he came to be captured by the group of savages: (169)
Friday, My nation beat much for that.

Master, How beat; if your nation beat them, how come you to be taken?
Crusoe the Narrator now becomes Crusoe the character (Master) and just as well, Friday’s discourse, usually narrated in the 3rd person by Crusoe, is now in the 1st person.
Now that we have defined who the narrator is, we can move on from Narrative communication and focus on the Voice in the narrative situation.

In narratology, the basic voice question is "Who speaks?" (= who narrates this?) The aspect of Voice in a narrating situation can be analysed by examining its defining elements, namely as outlined by Genette: time of narrating, narrative level, and “person


Temporal relations (Shlomith) or Time of narrating (Genette):
The very structure of languages (referring to major western languages) requires that the story be temporally located with respect to the narrating act – since the story must be told in a present, past, or future tense. The narrating place, or spatial relation, however is very rarely specified, and for that matter usually irrelevant.
Looking at narration from a common sense point of view, we see that narration may only happen after an event – thus a past tense narration, with the time between the narration and the event varying from text to text. But this is not the only type of narration (however the most common). From this temporal position Genette outlines four different temporal types of narrating:
Subsequent: The classical position of the past-tense narrative, undoubtedly far and away the most frequent. (Robinson Crusoe)

Prior: Predictive narrative, generally in the future tense, but not prohibited from being conjugated in the present. (ex. Prophetic, oracular, astrological, etc. example - Biblical Prophesy)

Simultaneous: Narrative in the present, contemporaneous with the action (Radio and Television reporting are the most obvious live form of this kind of narrative, where the narrative follows the action so closely that it can be considered practically simultaneous)

Interpolated or intercalated: Between the moments of the action, where telling and acting are not simultaneous, but follow each other in alternation (the most complex form, since the story and the narrating can become entangled in such a way that the latter (narration) has an effect on the former (story): example les liaisons dangereuses in which the writing of letters often serves both to narrate an event of the recent past and to trigger an event of the near future – very common form in the epistolary novel)
The duration of the act of narrating can also be considered – however is not an aspect that receives a lot of attention, nor does the reader feel a need for such specification.
Crusoe’s narrative position – identifying himself with the hero/protagonist at the beginning of the story ­– is logically told with a subsequent temporal relation to the actual events:
I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family
As mentioned briefly above, another aspect that needs to be taken into consideration when talking about the temporal interval between the moment of the narrating and the moment of the story is that of convergence, namely when (and if) the events in the story catch up to the time of the narrator who is relating those events:
All these things, with some very surprising incidents in some new adventures of my own, for ten years more, I may perhaps give a farther account of in the Second Part of my Story.
Events  arrive within 10 years of the act of narrating
At the end of the Second book, the temporal distance between events and the narration has arrived at the same level:
And here I resolved to prepare for a longer journey than all these, having lived a life of infinite variety seventy-two years, and learned sufficiently to know the value of retirement, and the blessing of ending our days in peace.
Narrative Levels and Subordinated relations (Shlomith/Genette)
When we talk about Narrative Levels we are concerned with narration in the story, or narratives within narratives – the hierarchal structure of the different narrative situations in the story.
In order to analyse these different relationships, a few definitions are necessary.

We have to keep in mind that these terms designate relative situations and functions, not individuals within the story.


We have the following graphic to help us understand the different terminology. Each A, B, and C represent a different narrative. In the following example, Genette calls the narrator of A an extradiegetic narrator (or 1st degree, outside the story) whose narrative constitutes a diegetic level (story), while B is a metadiegetic narrative (or 2nd degree) told by an intradiegetic narrator (inside the story). On the next level C, one would get a meta-metadiegetic narrative told by an intra-intradiegetic narrator, and so on.

A

B


B


C



Note: some critics prefer the prefix hypo- (from Greek 'under') rather than meta- (from Greek 'on, between, with') ) as a more adequate when referring to technically subordinate narratives.
If we take these terms and apply them to our story we have the following diagram:

A – R. Crusoe as Narrator : extradiegetic narrator


B – R. Crusoe, as a character, narrates the happenings on the island through the narrative device of a his daily journal : metadiegetic narrative

In box B, the character within the original Narrative A becomes a Narrator himself, Narrative B. In order to have another “box”, or level, a character within the narrative B would have to begin his/her own narrative.


The different Functions of subordinate levels
Critics have identified different functions of the metadiegetic narrative, namely:
1) Actional Function: The act of narrating itself that fulfills a function in the diegesis (A), involving no explicit relationship between the two story levels. It may serve as a distraction, and or an obstruction.
2) Explicative Function: The “this is why” narrative, usually to explain an event happening in the diegetic (A) level – explaining the events that have led up to the present situation. Thus a change in the temporal continuity of the story.
3) Thematic Function: The relationship between levels in this category is that of analogy - similarity or contrast, and therefore implying no spatial-temporal continuity between metadiegesis (B) and diegesis (A).
The transition from one narrative level to another can in principle be achieved only by the narrating, the act that consists precisely of introducing into one situation, by means of a discourse, the knowledge of another situation.

But having gotten over these things in some measure, and having settled my household staff and habitation, made me a table and a chair, and all as handsome about me as I could, I began to keep my journal; of which I shall here give you the copy (though in it will be told all these particulars over again) as long as it lasted; for having no more ink, I was forced to leave it off. (56)

Any other form of transit (between the different levels), although not impossible, is always a transgression, producing a strangeness that is either comical or fantastic – to these transgressions is given the term narrative metalepis.(235 Genette)


Person (Genette)Typology of Narrators (Shlomith)
When Genette refers to the category of person in the narrative analysis, he refers to the relations between the narrator–plus, should the occasion arise, his or their narratee(s)– and the story he tells (215)
Extent of participation in the story
The question of person is not only a grammatical issue of “first-person” and “third-person” but also deals with narrative posture: to have the story told by one of its characters or to have it told by a narrator outside of the story. If the narrator is a participant in the story, he/she is referred to as homodiegetic, and the opposite, a narrator not a part of the story as heterodiegetic.
The difference between homodiegetic narrators and heterodiegetic narrators is quite clear, absence is absolute, however presence has differing degrees. So we have to differentiate within the homodiegetic type at least two varieties: 1) one where the narrator is the hero of his narrative, and 2) one where he plays only a secondary role, which almost always turns out to be a role as observer and witness. The first example, which represents a strong degree of the homodiegetic narrative is called autodiegetic.
So, in Robinson Crusoe we have a homodiegetic, autodiegetic narrator, the older Robinson telling the story of his own experiences, at the same time narrator and hero / protagonist.
The heterodiegetic narrator, because of his absence from the story, has a higher narratorial authority, and is often given a quality which has often been called omniscience. The general characteristic denoted by the term is the ability to know everything that is going on in the story: knowledge of the inner thoughts and feelings of different characters, events happening in several places at the same time etc.

Degree of perceptibility
The degree of perceptibility of the narrator ranges from the maximum covertness (often mistaken as an absence of the narrator) of to a maximum of overtness. There are many signs of overtness that Chatman lists in mounting order of perceptibility (going from covert overt):
1) Description of setting: relatively minimal sign of the narrator’s presence
2) Identification of characters: showing prior knowledge of a character on the part of a narrator that can be presented to the reader, an assumption that the narratee/addressee does not share this knowledge to share with others what they don’t know
3) Temporal summary: a desire to account for time-passage, to satisfy questions in a narratee’s mind about what has happened in the interval, summaries of events – all imply the presence of a narrator as well as his notion of what should be told in detail and what should be narrated with greater conciseness:

As I have troubled you with none of my sea journals, so I shall trouble you now with none of my land journals; but some adventures that happened to us in this tedious and difficult journey I must not omit. (227)

I have nothing uncommon to take notice of in my passage through France-nothing but what other travellers have given an account of with much more advantage than I can. I travelled from Toulouse to Paris, and without any considerable stay came to Calais, and landed safe at Dover the 14th of January, after having had a severe cold season to travel in (238)

4) Definition of character: whereas identification (2) supposes prior knowledge, definition also suggests an abstraction, generalization or summing up on the part of the narrator as well as a desire to present such labeling as authoritative characterization.



But I needed none of all this precaution; for never man had a more faithful, loving, sincere servant than Friday was to me: without passions, sullenness, or designs, perfectly obliged and engaged; his very affections were tied to me, like those of a child to a father; and I daresay he would have sacrificed his life to save mine upon any occasion whatsoever-the many testimonies he gave me of this put it out of doubt, and soon convinced me that I needed to use no precautions for my safety on his account (165)

Such definitions carry more weight or have more authority when coming from an extradiegetic narrator as opposed to an intradiegetic narrator.

5) Reports of what characters did not think or say: A narrator who can tell things of which the characters are either unconscious or which they deliberately conceal.
This aspect is beyond the limits of the narrator in R. Crusoe, who as a character in the story is limited to his personal experience and perception.
6) Commentary: Commentary can be either on the story or on the narration. One form of this on the story is interpretation – concerning behavior of certain characters for example, or as is the most common example in our story, interpretation of events and the hand of Providence.
Another form of commentary on the story concerns judgment, concerning character for example, and is quite revealing of the narrator’s moral stand.
A third type of commentary on the story pertains to generalization, and is not restricted to a specific character, event, or situation but extends the significance of the particular case in a way which purportedly applies to a group, society or humanity at large :
But as abused prosperity is oftentimes made the very means of our ( referring to humanity) greatest adversity, so it was with me (31)
Lastly, commentary on the narration is concerned not with the represented world, but with the problems representing it. The presence of the narrator reflecting on his narration. In our story, this is presented by Crusoe’s use of “nay” – meaning “or rather” to emphasize a more appropriate word or phrase than the one just used:
All this time I worked very hard, the rains hindering me many days, nay, sometimes weeks together (62)
Reliability
Reliable narrator ≠ Unreliable narrator
RN = one who’s rendering of the story and commentary on it the reader is supposed to take as an authoritative account of fictional truth.
UR = rendering of the story the reader is liable to suspect
In order to determine whether or not we can trust the narrator we can look for signs or markers of unreliability:
1) The narrator’s limited knowledge (not directly witnessing action, very young)

2) Personal involvement of the narrator (subjective point of view concerning the event – emotions)



3) Problematic value scheme (contradicting statements in the internal language of the narrator, when views of other characters clash with those of the narrators)
*Note: these same terms used to define the function of the narrator can also be used to define the function of the narratee / addressee.

Jahn, Manfred. 2005. Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative. English Department, University of Cologne
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