Reliability Of Narrator Essay, Research Paper
Reliability of a Narrator
Stories are often told by a narrator giving his/her point of view, by using
omniscient, limited omniscient, or first person. The purpose of the narrator is to give facts
and details, being reliable or not. Three stories we have read in class are “The Body,” by
Stephen King, “Defender of the Faith,” by Philip Roth, and “Everyday Use,” by Alice
Walker; which give examples of a reliable narrator. Each narrator was a reliable source
of information, and told his/her story well.
Stephen King’s. “The Body,” was an excellent representation of first person point
of view narration. The main protagonist, Gordie, was not only the narrator but a major
character. Gordie told the story as an adult looking back on his childhood experiences.
He may not have remembered exactly what was said at the time, but he knew enough
information to relay an honest recollection. The reliability of a story’s narrator depends
upon whether or not the reader can trust the information of the narrator. For example, “I
became acutely aware of all the noises inside me and outside me, like some crazy
orchestra tuning up to play. The steady thump of my heart, the bloodbeat in my ears like
a drum being played with brushes…” (King 358). I felt that these sentences made Gordie
more believable, because he acted more mature than the others. His thoughts ran deeper
than most twelve year olds, but it was believable. King had written this story with
stereotypical adolescent characters, but they ended up being less than ordinary. As the
narrator, Gordie gave his own feelings as well as giving the views of the other three. For
example, “Teddy’s head shook without definition, unsure if this was true. Someone had
redefined his pain, and redefined it in shockingly common terms.” (King 352). Gordie’s
reliability is maintained during the entire story because of his innocence as a character.
There is no need for him to embellish the truth, because each event could be altered
slightly by one of the other characters.
“Defender of the Faith,” by Philip Roth, is a story in which the narrator becomes
involved with the main protagonist of the story. This story is a good example of reliable
narration, in that, Sergeant Marx goes through a life altering experience. Through his
learning, he shows the reader that each event could have taken place. Marx has not
acknowledged his religious differences until the first conversation with Sheldon
Grossbart. “You can stay and scrub floors or you can go to shul,” this is the first
recognition of Marx’s religion (Arp 118). Given that Sergeant Marx is Jewish, we are
able to pick out what is true about the religion and what is false. Marx points out more
than one situation where he is manipulated for the benefit of Private Sheldon Grossbart.
In doing this, he is letting the reader into his personal experience, regardless of what
criticism he may receive.
“Everyday Use,” by Alice Walker, was an extraordinary use of first person
narration. At first, I had no idea where this story was going to take the reader. The
narrator was passionate of her convictions about her eldest daughter. The narrator felt
more bonded with the younger daughter, because she was willing to stay behind in the
unchanging environment. The narrator showed disappointment when the eldest daughter,
Dee, came for a visit. Dee wanted was to take the valuable belongings away from her
mother and sister, because they wouldn’t be properly used. It is best expressed in this
quote from the story, “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts! she said. “She’d probably be
backward enough to put them to everyday use” (Arp 96). The narrators reliability is
shown throughout the story by relating her situation to a broad group. Most of us have
experienced similar events, making it easy to trust the narrator.
The reliability of a narrator is what most readers depend on to make a good story.
The main focus of the narrator is to make the readers become involved in the story. The
reader should be able to step into the shoes of one of the characters. In the stories listed
above, one can conclude that narration is key to having a successful story.
Arp, Thomas R. (1998). Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. New York:
Harcourt Brace and Company.
King, Stephen. (1982). Different Seasons. New York: Penguin Books Ltd.