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David Lodge’s “The Unreliable Narrator” connected to “Maps” (Eman)

“Unreliable narrators are invariably invented characters who are part of the stories they tell.

This chapter begins with an excerpt from Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day”. This story is about a man named Stevens who is an elderly English butler. In this excerpt he is the bearer of bad news and has to tell Miss Kenton about the news of the death of her aunt. As he leaves her to grieve, he forgets to give her his condolences, leaving her to cry. Later, we learn that he has misplaced the memories! He has “attached this memory to the wrong episode” , making him an unreliable narrator.

“The point using an reliable narrator is indeed to reveal in an interesting way the gap between appearance and reality, and to show how human beings distort or conceal the latter.

On page 84, Askar says “I cannot vouch for the accuracy of my memory here. Possibly I’ve invented one or two things, perhaps I have intentionally deviated from the true course of events. Although I tend to think that I am remembering in precise details how things happened and what was said.” Here Askar basically says that he may have displaced a few memories on purpose. As lodge described it, Askar has a “heavily censored memory.” We are forced to rely on what he tells us, whether it is reliable or not because it is the only source of information we have.

“If he had been reliable, the effect would, of course, have been incredibly boring.” 

Another one of Lodge’s points is that the purpose of an unreliable narrator is to make the story more lively and exciting. If we had gotten the exact description of what happened, we wouldn’t have thought twice about the incident.  But as we have to think twice about what is happening, it makes the story more intriguing.


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