Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Unreliable Narrator: What's the Truth?

One of my favorite picture books is The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! By Jon Scieszka. Besides the attitude of the wolf, the fun is knowing he’s lying, and for little kids who know the real story, they enjoy being in on the secret.

For adults, when they discover the author is using an unreliable narrator, they must question everything they thought they knew about the characters and the story. The story becomes more interesting. This literary device encourages readers to keep reading to discover what else the author is hiding and why.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins uses an unreliable narrator. Rachel, the main character, also a drunk, thinks she witnessed a murder. As she investigates, she becomes personally involved with the case and entangled in the lives of the other characters. Can the reader believe a black-out drunk?

There are three types of unreliable narrators:
1. Deliberately unreliable: Narrators who know they are lying. They lie because the point of view is theirs and they can tell the story whichever way they want.

2. Evasively unreliable: Narrators who aren’t aware they are lying. This can be the author’s way of telling a story so that it proves something or serves their purpose.

3. Naively unreliable: Narrators who tell the truth, but lack the information. For example, child narrators are truthful, but don’t understand the way the world works or understand the consequences of what they’re seeing or hearing.

If you use an unreliable narrator, make sure your narrator has a reason for deceiving the reader. Confuse the reader just enough so the reader doubts or questions the narrator; is the author lying, and why?

Below is my source and a link to the top ten unreliable narrators.


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