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It is undeniable that narration is a critical element in fiction writing, as it makes a story more personal by providing thoughtful reflections from a certain point of view. Whatever viewpoint authors envision in their writing, narration, therefore, is essential for the construction of a thought-provoking and interesting story. This essay aims to analyze narration types in Hawthorne’s, The Birth-Mark, Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, and Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily.
The Birth-Mark is a story of an incredibly attractive woman, Georgiana that has a small red birthmark on her cheek. For the majority of men and the main character herself, this birthmark did not spoil Georgina’s beauty and even was considered appealing. However, the woman’s beloved one, Aylmer, detests the birthmark and is of the opinion that Georgiana will look perfect without it. Finally, Aylmer invents the elixir, which was capable of removing the birthmark. In spite of the fact that after drinking it, the nevus almost fades away, Georgiana deceases.
In reference to the thoughts of both of the main characters in The Birth-Mark, Aylmer and Georgiana, is given by the narrator. Readers do not know who exactly tells the story, but it seems that this person is acknowledged about all the details of the protagonists’ lives. Thus, the narrator in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work is third-person omniscient. For instance, readers discover that Aylmer considers the birth-mark unattractive and unpleasant as “the symbol of his wife’s liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death” (Hawthorne 13). Nevertheless, they also become acknowledged of the specifics of Georgiana’s emotional reaction to her husband’s opinion.
However, there is the odd moment or two in which the author throws out his omniscience. It was stated that it was impossible to comprehend if Aylmer believed in a theory that a person is able to control nature (Hawthorne 2). This statement could be considered odd because the author retains omniscience throughout most of the story and links the opinions of Aylmer and Georgiana. Consequently, it might be suggested that the narrator is the author himself, who tries to moralize and make a point about humankind’s limitations (Christensen 5). Throughout the story, Hawthorne has a clear message he tries to convey to his readers – basically, that this work is educative as well as ethical. Remarkably, nowhere, the mindset of the writer is, as shown in the final paragraph, when the narration is dropped, and the author directly appeals to readers.
However, the author is so concerned with moralization that it is hard for readers to notice the climax. What is the reaction of Aylmer to the death of his wife? What is the reason behind Aminadab’s laughter? Does Aylmer consider this tragedy a personal mistake or not? These points are not clarified by Hawthorne, perhaps, because he mainly focused on teaching his readers a lesson.
The Yellow Wallpaper
This story of Gilman is told in the first person, the protagonist, and she is the central narrator. The main character suffers from what her husband, John, considers a “temporary nervous breakdown,” insisting she resists the temptation to do something and telling her to rest as much as possible (Gilman 2). It is essential to mention that the protagonist loves writing and desires to spend her time doing that; howsoever, John and the rest of her family are against this idea.
Nonetheless, the narrator begins drawing the wallpaper pattern fanatically and soon becomes persuaded that within the paper, there is a woman trapped and that she is capable of setting her free. When John enters the room, he faints as he sees the protagonist running around the room, peeling the paper off the walls. The narrator does not pay attention to the unconscious husband.
Since it is clearly understood that the narrator loses her sanity, it is difficult to decide whether readers should trust her viewpoint. There surely was no girl “imprisoned” in the wallpaper. However, the depiction of the woman stuck in the wallpaper was certainly to show a similarity with the protagonist; the narrator is also trapped in her room, as she does not like it and stays there all day. In addition, the protagonist is also unfree because she is a woman of the 19th century and is obliged to follow specific rules. However, the continuous use of “I” by the writer to express the narrative encourages readers to comprehend the protagonist’s madness and cultivate some empathy towards her plight.
A Rose for Emily
The story, A Rose for Emily, begins with Miss Emily Grierson’s funeral. No one has been visiting her house in ten years, except for her servant, so every guest is curious to have a look inside the house (Faulkner 22). Notably, Grierson’s home is presented not only as a symbol of life’s gone splendor but also signifies the negative sides of the current American society. It was her community that made the woman believe that only marriage could make her worthwhile.
However, due to the fact that Grierson has never married, her purpose of being important was never achieved. In one step of the life of a traditional woman, she was stuck— being a child. And, as such, she was confined literally to living in the house of her father. Emily was an unusual person, first of all, as the city did not tax her, and also because the man she was dating was lost after entering her house.
A Rose for Emily is considered to be narrated from a first-person, who is peripheral. Furthermore, as stated by Ahmadian and Jorfi, “In A Rose for Emily, Faulkner does not rely on a conventional linear approach to present his characters’ inner lives and motivations” (220). Throughout the story, it is visible how the author stretches the timeframe of the described actions. Additionally, the narrator could be aptly named as “first people”: sometimes the speaker talks as Jefferson’s men, sometimes for women, and often for both. The words of the narrator also speak for the three generations of Jeffersonians, including the father of Miss Emily’s family, the generation of Miss Emily, and the younger family members composed of the children of Miss Emily.
The narrator on the first two generations is pretty hard, and it is easy to see how Miss Emily’s treatment may have led to her fall. It gives a somewhat confessional insight into the story. Besides, Faulkner often uses the subject “we” throughout the story, no other people in the town were to blame for such a life tragedy of Emily but herself. The city’s willingness to accept accountability now is a hopeful sign that helps us to see a better future for future generations.
Different narration types were used in all of these three stories, through which the authors were able to portray a particular picture of the described story. For instance, in The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman assisted readers to feel the madness of the protagonist because it was she who told this story. If a different narration style were used in this work, probably, it would not have such a deep insight into the main character’s mindset. Consequently, every narration style is suitable for specific stories depending on what the writer aims to reflect in his work. The narration is the charm and the critical element for a coherent understanding by readers.
Ahmadian, Moussa, and Leyli Jorfi. “A Narratological Study and Analysis of The Concept of Time in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” Advances in Language and Literary Studies, vol. 6, no. 3, 2015, pp. 215-224.
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Christensen, Bryce. “Black Magic vs. White Magic in Hawthorne’s ‘Birth-mark’: The Science of Control vs. the Poetics of Imagination.” Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, vol. 7, no. 3, 2015, pp. 2-8.
Faulkner, William, John Carradine, and Anjelica Huston. A Rose for Emily. Verlag F. Schöningh, 1958.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Project Gutenberg, 1999.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Birth-Mark: 1843. Infomotions, Incorporated, 1843.