Meaning of Elements of the Narrative

In all narrations, the following elements can be distinguished: the narrator (the one who tells the story), the characters , the action or series of events narrated, the space and the time in which these events occur.

Main elements of the narrative

  • According to FOODANDDRINKJOURNAL, the narrator is the one who selects the narrated facts and presents them in a certain way, according to his intention. It is also he who sets the tone of the narration, the order of the facts, characterizes the characters and directs, in short, the course of the action.
  • The action constitutes the plot (or narrative plot), composed of the facts as the narrator presents them.
  • The characters are the real or fictional beings that live the narrated facts. They can be people, animals or personified objects. They are classified in main and secondary. Among the main ones, we highlight the protagonist, the one who conducts the action, and the antagonist or opponent, a character who opposes the protagonist.
  • The space and time of the narration constitute the narrative framework. This framework is always present, although, at times, the narrator leaves these elements of the narrative indeterminate.

The narrator and the types of narration

In narrative texts, the author tells the facts through the voice of the narrator. It is the narrator who presents the facts. Furthermore, it is he who sets the tone of the narration, orders the events, characterizes the characters and directs the course of the action.

The narrator can adopt two points of view and tell the story in first or third person, thus constituting two different types of narration:

  • First person narration. In this case, the narrator, called the narrator-character, participates, as a protagonist or as a witness, in the events he narrates. Example:

One night, coming from the city to Engenho Novo, I met on a train from Central a boy from the neighborhood, whom I know by sight and wearing a hat. He greeted me, sat next to me, talked about the moon and the ministers, and ended up reciting verses to me. The journey was short, and the verses may not have been entirely bad. It happened, however, that, as I was tired, I closed my eyes three or four times; it was enough for him to stop reading and put the verses in his pocket.

Dom Casmurro, Machado de Assis,

When the narrator is simultaneously the protagonist, there is the autobiographical account.

Memories and the diary are examples of autobiographical accounts. The autobiography can be real, when the author narrates his own life, or fictional, when he presents the narrator as the protagonist,

  • Third-person narration. It is the most common type of narration. In this case, the narrator does not participate in the facts he narrates, he only tells what happens to the characters, as in the following example.

Dario was hurrying, umbrella on his left arm and, as soon as he turned the corner, he slowed his pace until he stopped leaning against the wall of a house. Slipping through it He sat on the sidewalk, still damp with rain, and his pipe rested on the stone. Two or three passersby surrounded him and asked if he was not feeling well. Darius opened his mouth, moved his lips, there was no answer. The fat man in white suggested that he should suffer an attack. He reclined a little longer, now stretched out on the sidewalk, and the pipe had gone out.

A candle for Dario, Dalton Trevisan.

In some cases, the third-person narrator knows everything about his characters: what they do, feel, think, etc. It is the omniscient narrator (omniscient means “who knows everything”). Example:

They were silent. Angela Pralini gave in to the rhythmic noise of the train. Dona Maria Rita looked again at the diamond and pearl ring on her finger, smoothed the gold cameo: “I’m old but I’m rich, richer than everyone here in the car. I am rich, I am rich ”. He glanced at the clock, more to see the thick gold plate than to see the time. “I’m very rich, I’m not just any old woman” But I knew, oh well I knew it was an old lady, an old lady scared by the smallest things. She remembered herself, all day alone in her rocking chair, alone with the servants, while her daughter spent the day outside, only arrived at eight in the evening, and didn’t even kiss her. He woke up this day at five in the morning, everything was still dark, it was cold.

The departure of the train, Clarice Lispector.

In other cases, the narrator only tells what the characters do or say, without going inside. It is the observer narrator . Example:

Around 1914, Galib opened the Biblos restaurant on the ground floor of the house. Lunch was served at eleven, simple food, but with a rare flavor. Himself, the widower Galib, cooked, helped serve and cultivated the garden, covering it with a tulle veil to avoid the sun burning pain in the Municipal Market chose one caught a peacock or an matrinxã, recheava it with manioc flour and olives roasted it on the wood stove and served it with sesame sauce. He entered the restaurant room with the tray balanced in the palm of his left hand; the other hand wrapped around her daughter Zana’s waist, they went from table to table and Zana offered guarana, sparkling water, wine. The father talked in Portuguese with the customers of the restaurant, masters, boat commanders, regatões, workers of Manaus Harbor.

The action

The set of events narrated constitutes the action or plot. These events take place in a generally determined place and time. The narrator can tell the facts in a chronological order, as usually happens in the story, but he can also break that order, anticipating events that will occur later or going back in time to tell past facts.

The narrator can tell the facts as they occur, from beginning to end, or change their order, taking a time jump to the past or the future. In this way, several forms of temporal ordering can be distinguished:

  • Linear development. The narration presents the events in chronological order, from the oldest to the most recent. Traditional tales, for example, usually present this organization. character in places
  • It is a rupture in the temporal order that consists of advancing events and announcing events that will occur later. In the following fragment, the highlighted statement is an anticipation:

At a bad time the king followed Hagen’s advice. The brave knights rushed to carry out their treacherous plan without discovering anything. The discord between the two women would cause the death of more than one hero.

The song of the Nibelungs, unknown author.

  • Retrospective (or flashback). It is another rupture of the chronological order, which consists of going back in time (taking a leap backwards) with the aim of telling facts prior to the moment in which the story is situated. This is what happens, for example, in police novels, in which the narrative often begins with a crime and then the events that preceded it are reconstructed. The following is an example of a retrospective (or flashback);

About two hours before the interview we talked about in the previous chapter, William Sikes, who had just had a dream, awoke and asked what time it was.

Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens.

The characters

The characters are the beings that carry out the action. The reader knows them by the description that the narrator makes, by their attitudes, by what they do and say. They are usually people, real or fictional, but they can also be animals or personified objects. Example:

It seems that the needle said nothing, but a pin, with a big head and no less experience, murmured to the poor needle:
– Come on, learn, fool. Get ready to make way for her and she will enjoy life while you stay there in the sewing box. Do as I do, I do not open way to anyone. Where they stick me, I stay.

“An apologo”, Machado de Assis.

  • Depending on their importance in the development of the action, the characters can be primaryor secondary . Among the main ones, the protagonist stands out , who is the one who performs the action, and the antagonist , who opposes him.
  • Depending on the degree of psychological depth with which they present themselves, the characters are classified as flat or round.

– The flat characters do not change throughout the work and obey a previous conduct scheme. The characters in traditional tales, for example, are usually flat and often embody a virtue, a defect or a characteristic.

– The round characters have individual characteristics and evolve over the course of the story; they are beings whose psychological complexity makes them look like real people. The most important characters in the novels tend to be of this type.

The time

In narrative texts, information is organized according to a temporal order. The narrative can show the facts by faithfully reflecting the order in which they occur, so that the most remote events and, at the end, the most recent events are presented at the beginning. In this case, the narration is said to have a linear development. Traditional tales usually follow this organization. Example:

Once upon a time there was a miller who, with his wife, led a fortunate life. They owned money and goods and their property increased from year to year. However, misfortune comes overnight, as just as before his wealth had increased, now it decreased from year to year, until, in the end, the miller could only consider the mill in which he lived as his own.

Tales, Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm.

To express the time in the narration, verbal tenses and time indicators are used:

  • The tenses. As the narration aims to tell real or fictitious facts, words that express actions, that is, verbs, play a fundamental role in it. And, as usually the facts told are already passed, the usual thing is that in the past tense verbs in the past tense, especially in the past tense of the indicative (waited, delayed, shared, worried) or in the past tense of the indicative (lived, was, arrived, hated it).
  • Time indicators. The passage of time and the simultaneity or succession of actions are also marked by adverbs or temporal conjunctions (while, then, before, after) and other expressions that have a marked temporal character (finally, after a while, the next day) . Example:

While waiting for her friend, Ana decided to take refuge in the portal. Before long, he saw that someone was approaching.

The space

The events of the narration always take place somewhere. It is often possible to deduce the place where the action takes place without the need for it to be specified by the narrator. Example:

The flight attendant was taking her suitcase off quickly when, suddenly, she saw her ex-husband go to the gate.

In the previous text, it appears that the meeting place is an airport. When the location is not indicated, however abstract it may be, the reader can always resort to his imagination.

For some authors, the space of narration is of great importance. In fact, there are novels that make the literary space the protagonist of the story. For example, in Aluísio Azevedo’s O cortiço , the tenement is the place where history takes place. It is a living space that, personified, takes on the role of protagonist at various times, representing an important element when interpreting the development of the action:

It was five o’clock in the morning and the tenement woke up, opening, not its eyes, but its infinity of lined doors and windows. A joyful and hearty wake-up call from someone who slept from a seated seven hours of lead.

Narrative Focus

To tell (the act of narrating) or how to tell (the personal style) implies a certain position of the narrator in relation to the event. Thus, the narrator can assume three points of view in the narration .

Participating narrator or character

The participating narrator is one of the main or secondary characters in his story; he is “inside” the story and “sees” events from the inside out. In this case, the narrative, elaborated in 1st person (me – us), tends to be autobiographical, memorialist or confessional.

Remember: do not confuse author with narrator. The author has real existence, he is a person who exists physically. The narrator is a character created by the author to tell the story.

I placed myself above my class, I believe I have risen a lot. As I told you, I was a blind guide, a candy seller and a rental worker. I am convinced that none of these jobs would give me the necessary intellectual resources to engineer this narrative. (Graciliano Ramos)

Observer narrator

The observant narrator simply reports the facts, recording the characters’ actions and speeches; he tells, as a mere spectator, a story lived by others. It is the narrative written in 3rd person.

Campos, as usual, had just come down from lunch and, with his feather behind his ear, his handkerchief inside his collar, was ready to continue the work interrupted shortly before. He entered the office and went to sit at the desk. (Aluísio Azevedo)

Omniscient Narrator

The omniscient or omnipresent narrator is a kind of invisible witness to everything that occurs, in all places and at all times; he is not only concerned with saying what the characters do or say, but also translates what they think and feel. Therefore, he tries to pass on to the reader the emotions, thoughts and feelings of the characters.

A second later, still very soft, the thought became slightly more intense, almost tempting: don’t give it, they are yours. Laura was a little surprised: why were things never hers? (Clarice Lispector)