Narration Style In As I Lay Dying

1529 words - 7 pages

With most literature preceding the modernist movement, narration of stories was pretty straightforward; they were usually told by a main character or by the author as a third person- and that was that. However, as writing styles began to change, so did the style of narration. One of the most prominent examples of different narration is William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. In his novel, Faulkner reinvents the traditional expectation of having a single narrator by instead having multiple. Through this tactic of employing multiple narrators, Faulkner is able to change up traditional narration style, allowing readers to receive a wider breadth, rather than depth, of his novel so that independent ...view middle of the document...

Because there is not a single narrator to give his or her own perspective on the emotions and situations such as these, the duty of deciding whose feelings to sympathize with and who is actually right is left entirely up to the reader. The same thing goes for the matter of facts in the novel. Some of the characters are supposed to be experiencing the same events, yet when such events are told there are often inconsistencies. One such time when this occurs is when Dewey Dell and Vardaman are in the barn. In each of their respective passages, both give completely different accounts of what happened inside: Dewey Dell believes Vardaman was spying on her, and Vardaman is worried that she saw him beating on Peabody’s horses. Again, it’s up to the reader to decide which character he or she agrees with. This is because Faulkner completely removes himself from the story and opts to simply lay out and present a wide scope of events and emotions that are to be observed from multiple angles, rather than just outright telling the reader what to believe. It is because of this wide, more shallow range of a slew of narrators, rather than delving deep into one narrator, that readers must make up their minds for themselves. No one is there to point readers in the supposed right direction, which therefore leaves everything in the novel free to individual judgments on what is actually reliable, instead of chained to a single judgment that’s usually presented by a traditional narrator.
In addition to varying reliability, Faulkner also reinvents the narration style by creating different perceptions of time in each narrator’s sections through the tactic of switching up verb tenses. Once again, he does this to provide a wider array of things for readers to analyze and explore for themselves, rather than relying on a universal meaning fed to them by the traditional way of a single narrator. Throughout the novel, some passages are in the present tense, others are in the past, and some even go so far as to mix tenses- warping the perception of time even further. Faulkner likely changes up his tenses in order to give the reader greater insight into what each narrator is feeling during their inner monologues. When he uses the present tense it radiates a sense of immediacy; it shows that characters are experiencing things right then and there. By choosing to employ the present over the past, the reader is suddenly more attuned to the fact that the character speaking is now much more deeply involved in what he or she is talking about or experiencing at the moment. With the past tense, the narrators are drawn back and detached from certain events in order to ponder them; therefore, this also draws the reader back to contemplate the importance and meaning of these same situations from a distance. With all of this tense switching for each narrator, the notion of time soon becomes blurred, as some events may seem painstakingly slow for one character and then extremely fast for...

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