1. Amsterdamatt
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    Amsterdamatt Member

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    First person narrative with an ill-educated narrator

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Amsterdamatt, Aug 19, 2011.

    My book is told entirely from the viewpoint of a single character, so is a prime candidate for first-person narration. However, he is uneducated and a child, so I was wondering - how much should tone-of-voice enter into narration? Should the non-dialogue segments be regular prose:

    or should it reflect the maturity and capacity of the narrator:

    My instinct says the former is preferable, but I'd be interested if anyone has any recommendations for books that employ the latter style (or something in between). :)
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If he's uneducated, then the first example doesn't work for me. That's not the way an uneducated narrator would present things. It certainly doesn't sound like a child. If you want to do it that way, you should switch to third person.

    The second example might be over-doing it a bit, but you need to capture the voice of the narrator if you're going with first person, and that includes the narrator's biases, education (or lack there of), speech patterns, &c.

    Not sure I can think of any examples, off-hand, of an uneducated child presenting a first-person narrative. There are some kids books like the Junie B. Jones series. Junie is a smart girl, but she uses a lot of incorrect grammer in her speaking, and the first-person narrative reflects that. She sounds like a first-grade kid telling a story. It is probably worth looking at a couple to see how Barbara Park pulls it off.
     
  3. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    What did Catcher in the Rye teach us about this question?

    Yes, in first person narration, style should mimic content (true for most things, I suppose).
     
  4. Amsterdamatt
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    Amsterdamatt Member

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    Good example. Tom Sawyer is probably a good counter-example where first-person would have been too contrived, while third-person works well.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.

    Read it and learn. :)
     
  6. Amsterdamatt
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    Amsterdamatt Member

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    Have read it (although seem to have given it away at some point) - I'd forgotten that it was first-person, as opposed to the third-person of Tom Sawyer. :)
     

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