- About project
- Results and Awards
- Affiliate Programs
- International services
Pskov State University, Russia
Championship participant: the National Research Analytics Championship - "Russia";
The article deals with the analysis of narrative strategies in the novel involving the identification of the indexical signs that refer to the implied author and differentiation of the author- and narrator- specific indexes.
Key Words: impliedauthor, implied reader, diegetic narrator, focalization, indexical signs.
The narrative of the novel Waterland (1983) by G. Swift is constructed as a complex interaction of the narrative levels – those of the implied author and the narrator. The term implied author was introduced by the American critic Wayne C. Booth in 1961 and has become widespread as a concept referring to the author contained in a work, but not manifested in it. Wolf Schmid defines the implied author as “the correlate of all the indexical signs in a text that refer to the author of that text” (1). The indexical signs embrace “the stylistic, ideological, and aesthetic properties” of the text (1). The difference between the implied author and the narrator is grounded in the problem of the concrete author’s intention: the implied author “is not an intentional creation of the concrete author and differs categorically in this respect from the narrator, who is always an explicitly, or even implicitly, represented entity” (1). In his works Schmid dwells upon the concept of the “(re)constructed implied reader” emphasizing the necessity to distinguish its “two hypostases” according to the functions it can have. First, the implied reader can be defined as an “assumed addressee to whom the work is directed and whose linguistic codes, ideological norms, and aesthetic ideas must be taken account of if the work is to be understood; second, – as an “an image of the ideal recipient who understands the work in a way that optimally matches its structure and who adopts the interpretive position and aesthetic standpoint put forward by the work” (2, 3).
So, the identification of the indexical signs that refer to the implied author and differentiation of the author- and narrator- specific indexes is the purpose of the analysis carried out from the viewpoint of the implied reader. The bulk of the analysis is carried out the frame of the first chapter of the novel in which the main principles of narrative technique are put forward.
The narrator of Waterland is Tom Crick, a 53-year-old history teacher who narrates his story from a crucial point of his life – a family drama (his wife’s madness) accompanied by a professional failure (retirement/dismissal). The narrator, defined by David Malcolm as a “particular and situated narrator” (4: 108) may, in terms of narratology, be defined as a diegetic narrator (5) (the narrative acts are made by the narrator from within the narrative world).
The first chapter ‘About the Stars and the Sluice’ opens with thewords of the narrator’s father addressed to his son: “‘And don’t forget,’ my father would say, as if he expected me at any moment to up and leave to seek my fortune in the wide world, ‘whatever you learn about people, however bad they turn out, each of them was once a tiny baby sucking his mother’s milk…’” (6: 1). The narrating ‘I’ of the diegeticnarrator in this passage turns into the narrated ‘I’, the central character (Tom is a boy). As Tom’s father, functioning as the character in the fictional world of the novel, in this passage becomes a narrator having his own perspective, Tom acquires the role of the addressee of the fictive narrator, known as the “narratee” (7), or “fictive reader” (8). The implied reader is invited, somehow, to share this focal point with the fictive reader, thus, getting involved in the communicative discourse of the novel. The interplay of perspectives is quite complex: the focalization of Tom’s father talking to his son (the narrated ‘I’) is presented through the perception (slightly ironic) of an adult narrator: “my father would say, as if he expected me at any moment to up and leave to seek my fortune in the wide world”. Variety of perspectives underlies the narrative of Waterland thus becoming the indexical sign of the implied author whose ideological standpoint (that of questioning the possibility of a universal reliable perspective or, generally, grand narrative) emerges in the first lines of the novel.
The father’s words are perceived by the narrator as “fairy-tale words; fairy-tale advice” (p. 1). The genre of fairy-tale with its time and space markers and imagery is introduced in the first chapter. In the very first passage the motif of quest – “to seek my fortune in the wide world” – launches its multiple manifestations throughout the novel. Fairy-tale space is presented from the perspective of Tom as a small boy: “And yet this land, <…> would transform itself, in my five- or six-year-old mind, into an empty wilderness” (p. 3). For a little boy it seems to be a “fairy-tale place. <…> in the middle of the Fens. Far from the wide world” (p. 1), “in the middle of nowhere”. The child’s fears of the ‘wide world’ are embodied in a fairy-tale image of a monster: “the noise of the trains <…> was like the baying of a monster closing in on us in our isolation” (p. 3).
Handling of time revealing the child’s and the adolescent’s viewpoint is quite subjective: “And since my mother’s death, which was six months before we lay the eel traps under the stars” (p. 2), “this was several years after Dad told us about the stars, but only two or three since he began to speak of hearts and mother’s milk” (p. 4). The objective historic time simultaneously comes into play: “and one night, in midsummer, in 1937” (p. 1); “it was, to be precise, July 1943” (p. 4).
These manifestations of peculiarities of child’s cognitive processes in the narrative are well within the narrator’s level, while on the level of the implied author free handling of genre markers acquires the quality of the indexical sign. D. Malcolm considers genre mixture “one of the most marked features of Waterland”, pointing out that this feature is typical of a large number of other British novels in the 1980’s (4: 88).
The first chapter contains the features of a psychological novel of childhood development as it deals with the evolution of the child’s and adolescent’s impressions shaped by the atmosphere of the place and the parent’s influence on the child’s perception of the world. It’s worth mentioning that the principle of selecting the narrative elements for drawing a reliable picture of the child’s mind development echoes that of James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
The visual images of the boy’s world are numerous in the chapter: “the mystery of darkness” (p. 1); “the sky swarmed with stars which seemed to multiply as we looked at them” (p. 1); (the boy’s viewpoint); “dead-straight lines of ditches and drains which, depending on the state of sky and the angle of the sun, ran like silver, copper or golden wires across the fields” (p. 2) (the adult’s focalization). The palette applied for picturing the landscape of the Fens is rich in all shades of green (rather an optimistic and vital colour): “grey-green potato leaves, blue-green beet leaves, yellow-green wheat” contrasted, though, with the “uniform colour” of the Fens – “peat-black”
(p. 2). The shade of the white colour appears in the meaningful description of the River Leem: “the milky brown of the Norfolk chalk hills from which it flowed” (p. 3). The imagery here is in full accord with the narrator’s perspective, but the idea of subjectivity (“depending on the state of the sky and the angle of the sun”) that underlies the perception (and, more generally, interpretation) may be seen as referring to the frame of the implied author. Moreover, the fusion of contrasted images (“dead-straight lines” are at the same time like “silver, copper or golden wires”, green and black colours are united) brings forth the ideas of relativity (of progress, of good and evil, of life and death) and of the elusive nature of the truth.
The images referring to the sense of hearing reveal the narrator’s childish view of the world: the pumps “were tump-tumping”; the frogs “were croaking” (p. 1); the noise of the trains “was like the baying of a monster”; “a groaning of metal” of the working sluice (p. 3). The orchestration of the first chapter finishes with the menacing sounds of the “wild world”: “the roar of ascending bombers” (p. 4), connecting the Fens, with the “wide world” and broadening the scope of the narrated ‘I’ perspective.
The smell “which is smelt over and over again in the Fens” (p. 4) is described by the narrator as “half man and half fish” (p. 4). The focalization of an adult narrator allows a quite sophisticated statement concerning the nature of this smell: “A cool, slimy but strangely poignant and nostalgic smell” (p. 4). The level of the implied author refers here, along with many other literary and cultural frames, to the Biblical doctrine of the original sin and the motif of returning to Eden recurring throughout the novel.
The sense of touch is not supported by plentiful examples in the first chapter (possibly, the epithets “cool” and “slimy” used in the description of the smell may fall into this rank), but it acquires significance when the narrator throws light upon his first adolescent sexual experience with Mary, his future wife. The motif of quest, investigation skilfully handled by he implied author is given one more manifestation in the narrative.
The first chapter of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is abundant in examples illustrating the development of the baby’s and then the boy’s five senses of perception (eyesight, hearing, smell, touch, taste). Later, Stephen Dedalus becomes aware of his true vocation in life – to observe the “deadly work” of real life and recreate the world perceived through his senses in a genuine artistic form – that constitutes the birth of an artist in Stephen.
The first chapter of Waterland (and those related to the childhood and youth of Tom Crick) may be seen as “a portrait of the history teacher as a young man”. The world perceived through his senses (among which the eyesight is given the accentuated consideration as it refers to the ability to observe) evolves from a “fairy-tale land” to the world with “ascending bombers”. The narrator’s burning desire to gain an insight into the nature of things, to connect the causes and effects constitute the opening approach of the history teacher-initiate. But in Waterland the implied reader witnesses the construction of the narrative by the narrator who is facing dismissal (and is eventually dismissed), and who, paradoxically, at that utterly dramatic moment acquires the qualities of a good history (or life) teacher: speculating upon the facts not taking anything for granted, ability to pass on his learning and personal experience (in the narrative form he considers most appropriate – emphasizing the act of telling ) to his pupils (fictive readers). Then the figure of the narrator turns into “a portrait of the history teacher as a mature man”. The reference (not presented explicitly) to the modernist novel makes the implied reader think of the links between the postmodernist work and the modernist novel based on highly sophisticated intellectual models.
The realist traditions of the British literature are actualized in the second epigraph of the novel: ‘Ours was the marsh country…’ Great Expectations
The intertextual dialogue is given evidence in the description of the landscape in both novels.
The words «flat», «wilderness», «black» are insistently used in Waterland: “…the land in that part of world is flat. Flat, with an unrelieved and monotonous flatness…”; “…its uniform colour, peat-black»; «empty wilderness” (p. 3) and in Great Expectations by Dickens: “the dark flat wilderness”; “on the flat in-shore”; “a long black horizontal line”; “nor yet so black”; “dense black lines”; “…the only two black things in all the prospect…” (9). The symbolic quality of the black colour is evident in the realist novel of Dickens. The images embodying the impending danger of the big world threatening the “small creatures” are synonymous in the novels. Tom Crick describes his father’s routine work applying the image of a guillotine: “Then he would have to raise the sluice which cut across the stream like a giant guillotine” (p. 3). InGreatExpectationsthenarratorseesintheprospectonlytwoblackthings – abeaconandagibbet. The implications of the images seem to have much in common: the themes of History, revolution (guillotine) interact with the idea of threatening perspective (a beacon accompanied by a gibbet) echoing the “the fruitless meditations on the laws of perspective” (p. 3) in the first chapter of Waterland. The analyzed intertextual markers can be identified with the indexical signs of the implied author.
One more example of the implied author’s presence in the narrative of Waterland is the shift, at the end of the first chapter, toward the conventions of a murder mystery: “For this something was a body. And the body belonged to Freddie Parr” (p. 4). Some detective story markers are common in the novels of Swift and Dickens.
The realist tradition (various in its manifestation throughout the novel) re-echoes in the narrative of Waterland and at the same time is re-examined. The narrator of the realist novel is guided by the realist norms of an unambiguous presentation of fictional material. The narrator of a contemporary novel questions the possibility of gaining the objective knowledge and the very possibility of representation of reality. This theoretical standpoint referring to the level of the implied author underlies the whole narrative of Waterland. The principles of selecting the narrative elements for a highly subjective and layered narrative are reflected in the first epigraph of the novel, the definition of the Latin word historia:
Historia, ae, f. 1. inquiry, investigation, learning. 2.
a) a narrative of past events, history.
b) any kind of narrative: account, tale, story.
Tom Crick’s narrative does not represent the objective historical reality but imposes a particularly subjective narrative shape on events their elusive nature being metaphorically represented in the title of the novel – Waterland, the word invented by the concrete author Graham Swift to serve the implied author of the narrative as an underlying standpoint.
On the whole, Waterland is a sophisticated layered narrative allowing various reading strategies and containing the indexical signs that can be referred to the level of the implied author and those perceived as the narrator’s indexes. The narrator’s frame characteristics include variable and flexible focalization (interacting with the viewpoint of different characters); unchronological organization of the narrated material based on time and space shifts; fragmentation, accentuated subjectivity in selection of the narrative elements with an emphasis on the act of making a narrative; subjective reconstruction of the world history interwoven with the personal history. The indexical signs of the implied author include different frames of reference: the postmodernist perception of history reconstructed in the narrative; re-examination of literary conventions of realist, modernist and, consequently, postmodernist novel; intertextual frames of reference (Victorian novels, J. Joyce’s works only briefly touched upon in the analysis): genre mixture. Generally, the organization of the narrative material reflects the situation of epistemological uncertainty with the narrator’s “typical”, under the circumstances, point of view.