“The role of the narrator influences the type of relationship we have not only with him or her but also with the story” (Landy 75). This quote was taken from our Literary Studies book in which we have read several stories concerning different styles of narration. Narration is one of the most important components of a story. The characters, plot, setting, and theme are also significant, however the narrator sets the mood and also the pace of the story. Two good examples of narration is the short tale The Zebra Storyteller by Spencer Holst and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. These are stories in which the narrators retain certain styles of narration. An outside book that we have not read is the fairy tale Cinderella. In these three works, the narrators have specific functions or duties to carry throughout the story.
In The Zebra Storyteller the narrator is a Siamese cat but the narrator is also an outsider. During the story the cat tells a story to his friends about how skillful and ‘powerful’ he is at killing zebras. Towards the end of the story the cat is handed his fate; he is kicked and killed by a zebra, who sensed feared when approached. At the end of the story Holst concludes with the statement, “That is the function of the storyteller.” This statement pertains to the idea of the function the storyteller has or how they create the atmosphere and set the grounds in which the story is based on. There are many functions of the storyteller. They can teach a lesson, control the story, entertain, and stretch one’s own imagination. In this story it is a great example how the story can take a sudden unexpected turn and shock the reader. The narrator can take twists and turns and can make expected or even unexpected outcomes in the story. A good example in the story would be where the narrator states, “The zebra storyteller wasn’t fit to be tied at hearing a cat speaking his language, because he’d been thinking about that very thing” (Holst 1971). At this point the narrator changes the reader’s perspective and sheds light on an upcoming event in the story. Which turned out to be a big event where the Siamese cat got killed. Of course this story is fictional but it is an excellent story to portray how a narrator can expand the reader’s imagination.
The Yellow Wallpaper is a story in that one of the different styles of narration is prevalent. Some types of unique styles of narration writing are story telling, diary style, or telling a story about a day’s experience. The Yellow Wallpaper is in diary format which means the narrators internal thoughts are exposed in the story as well as their outside thoughts, meaning how they deal with the other characters in the story. This story is about a woman who is in a mental hospital where she is kept in a room that has very old yellow wallpaper on the walls. In this story the main character or the narrator is secluded in this room by herself and is limited to basically doing nothing. As the story continues the narrator is drawn toward the hideous wallpaper and finds herself in the wallpaper. In her diary writings she reports, “There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will. Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer everyday” (Gilman 83). In her reports she creates a mysterious, scary mood about the woman she sees in that paper. When the narrator reveals ‘her diary’ it allows reading into their thoughts on how they take in the actions in the story. She lets them into how she feels about her husband and also she is not allowed to write because he says it is going to delay her getting better, which she disagrees with. She says, “Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good” (Gilman 78). The narrator’s function in this story is to set not only the mood but also the setting. In the beginning she describes her settings very clearly giving details of her room and the outside gardens. As the story continues she becomes more abstract due to her deteriorating awareness of reality. At the end her husband collapses due to the sight of his wife ‘creeping through the wallpaper.’ She makes her reader’s imagination wonder what really happens at the end. After he faints she says, “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time” (Gilman 89). The function of the narrator in this story is to cause the reader to imagine and picture the story.
The fairytale that I chose to discuss the narrator role was Cinderella. This story is a very popular tale among young children especially me when I was little. In this story the narrator is an outsider who tells the story of a young girl who meets a prince that she falls in love with. Cinderella is a greatly imaginative story where the reader can picture and imagine scenes throughout the story. The narrator describes in great detail major points of the story. He writes, “And not just the kind thoughts, and love, but also dresses, shoes, shawls, delicious food, comfy beds, as well as every home comfort” (Dulac 1). He describes the way the evil stepsisters treat Cinderella and how harsh and distasteful they are. There is much dialogue incorporated in the story from all the important characters. The narrator’s purpose in this story is to simply tell the story from an outside perspective. He is not a character in the story but he does have a role throughout. When the fairy godmother turned the mice into horsemen the narrator remarks, “The pumpkin turned into a sparkling coach and the mice became six white horses, while the seventh mouse turned into a coachman, in a smart uniform and carrying a whip. Cinderella could hardly believe her eyes” (Dulac 2). The narrator in Cinderella has a magical way with words. He enraptures his reader’s who are predominantly young in age into an enchanted world where mice become horsemen and a servant’s ensemble turns into a beautiful, sparkly ball gown.
Narrator’s in stories whether they be short or long have many specific roles. They can teach an important lesson, control the story, amuse, and entertain. A significant theme can be taught by the way the narrator tells the story and how the atmosphere or mood is created. If there was not an effective narrator in a story, the story would not be worth reading.