Definition

One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kerry's Wednesday Challenge ~ The Unreliable Narrator

The Unreliable Narrator is a story-teller whose credibility is brought into question by the author, for his/her own narrative purpose. 




Cover of First Edition, 1925
Francis Cugat
Creative Commons Licence


One immediately thinks of Nick Carraway, the unreliable narrator of The Great Gatsby, who announces to his audience early in the novel: “Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.” He then proceeds to cover up for Gatsby, he fails to disclose the facts of Tom Buchanan's affair to his cousin, Daisy and lies by omission to Tom.  Fitzgerald wants his reader to share Nick's view that Gatsby was better than "the whole damn bunch put together."


Cover Art
Bantam Classics Edition


Unreliable Narrators are usually presented in the first person, to tell the story of the novel's protagonist, or to relate their own stories to a sympathetic audience.  Catherine Earnshaw's story, in Wuthering Heights, is told by two unreliable narrators: Mr Lockwood, a passionless man, and Nelly Dean, who admitted to her dislike of Cathy. While Huck Finn is considered an impaired narrator due to his immaturity, in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.



Wiki Creative Commons Licence
E.W. Kemble 1884


The nature of the narrator is sometimes immediately clear. For instance, a story may open with the narrator making a plainly false or delusional claim or admitting to being severely mentally ill, or the story itself may have a frame in which the narrator appears as a character, with clues to his or her unreliability. A more dramatic use of the device delays the revelation until near the story's end. This twist ending forces readers to reconsider their point of view and experience of the story. In some cases the narrator's unreliability is never fully revealed but only hinted at, leaving readers to wonder how much the narrator should be trusted and how the story should be interpreted. (Wikipedia ~ See link above)


Our Challenge is to write a poem from the first person point of view using a narrator whose unreliability becomes clear to the reader through the course of the narrative.
Here are a few suggestions to consider as a starting point:


tall tales
poisoned pen
impaired memory
hearsay/ gossip
prejudice
diminished capacity
intoxication
personal gain

This challenge offers us a chance to flex our narrative muscles, and also to consider what our intentions are as writers. I also hope that we can have a lot of fun with this idea in the process.  

25 comments:

Daydreamertoo said...

Had to really think about this one, then it seemed to fit in with the prompt at P Jam too so, I went with that. Great prompt Kerry, was fun too. Thanks :)

hedgewitch said...

What an excellent and meaty prompt, Kerry. I often use the first person, but to use it more subtly like this sounds like a true challenge and something to really get your chops working. I will have to go brood a bit and see what happens.

Kerry O'Connor said...

At last... I got around my connectivity problem to drop in my poem. I'm not sure it's entirely what I intended when I set the challenge but this is what I wrote.

Kay L. Davies said...

Oooh, this sounds like fun! It gives me to think.
K

hedgewitch said...

Well, not sure if I really made the prompt with this one, but like you Kerry, it's what I wrote.

Ella said...

I just read a book that this would align perfect with :D
Great prompt Kerry~

W.k. kortas said...

While I may be only so-so in terms of narrative ability, I take a back seat to no one when it comes to unreliability.

Fireblossom said...

What an excellent excellent challenge, Kerry. I can't wait to conjure up something for this!

Hannah said...

Well, that certainly was a challenge, Kerry!! Thank you for the mid-week mind exercise!

Susan said...

This is quite a challenge for me, but I have an idea . . . and if it's only half baked, I'll raise turn it a little in the oven as the week goes on. Thanks for an interesting twist, Kerry.

my heart's love songs said...

i'm not sure if i pulled it off, but it certainly was an exciting prompt to try!

thanks, Kerry!

Margaret said...

Might be a bit late but will try to have something by the end of the week. Can't wait to read the others

Susie Clevenger said...

Thanks for the challenge Kerry. I have fallen behind on my reading, but I will catch up this weekend. Think of my oldest daughter. She is having a liver and lymph node biopsy today, October 11th.

Sabio Lantz said...

Interesting. I am new here. How long is the prompt up?

Love the post -- I did not know these things -- fun learning.

Jinksy said...

Had to write this morning, but won't be able to visit other Toads until much later today...See you soon, people.

manicddaily said...

A very cool prompt. I'm afraid I went with a rather archetypical choice. k.

Kerry O'Connor said...

@Jinksy: Your first link came back to the Real Toads Home page. Please link up again.

Susan said...

Fun fun fun! I've read some of the most wonderful and profound writing ever because of this prompt which set us loose! Thank you again, Kerry.

Margaret said...

This was fun! Thanks I'll be back later tonight to read the others.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Well, I never have to look far for material, hee hee. Had fun with this one.........

Marian said...

Kerry, this is a great prompt. i am really running around this week and can't attend to it, but maybe this weekend. i hope i can! thank you.

Fireblossom said...

Sorry to be late! I hope you like what I've done for the challenge.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

I'm late as well, but will read what y'all have come up with! Peace, Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/10/11/manly-men-real-toads-abc-wednesday/

Jinksy said...

Not quite sure whether I was debarred from the Linky list this morning, or whether it's just another Google foible...so I'm trying my luck again...

California Girl said...

I am entranced with the "unreliable narrator " angle for "Gatsby",my favorite novel of all time. I was a Lit Major in college. I don't think any professors pursued this theme but, if they did, it was oblique.