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Point of View: Lodge’s Ideas Applied to Kate Chopin’s Short Stories

Point of View: Beyond the Bayou“, “La Belle Zoraide“, “The Lilies“, “The Lilacs“, and “Dead Men’s Shoesby Kate Chopin/ “Point of View” chapter, The Art of Fiction by David Lodge

[This analysis provides you with a model for your own writing as you complete the assignments related to the short stories for each author.

The document you send should begin with your chosen focus aspect as your title and your name (first only, please!) as the author of the analysis. If you prefer not to have your name appear at all, you may leave it out.

Please also respond to the post here below and at least one other post to get full credit for the assignment. Statements in bold font are points made by Lodge.]

Analysis of Narrative Technique in the above stories by Kate Chopin

as related to the “Point of View” chapter from David Lodge’s The Art of Fiction

In his chapter on point of view, David Lodge states that “The choice of the point(s) of view from which the story is told is arguably the most important single decision that the novelist has to make, for it fundamentally affects the way readers will respond, emotionally and morally, to the fictional characters and their actions” (26). In using a third-person point of view in these stories, Chopin initially gives the reader a sense of objectivity and distance. Yet the intense detail and description of the physical surroundings and the the use of French and patois in the stories immerse the reader in the story and, at the same time, emphasize the role of the narrator as the bridge between the reader and the world of the story. In relying on the reader’s own knowledge of the historical background of the post-Civil War South, Chopin allows the narrator to tell simple, fable-like stories on the surface that, for the adult reader, take on dark undertones. In that way, Chopin invites the reader’s judgment and then demands that it be withheld. For example, in “La Belle Zoraide,” the frame narrative structure removes the actual story several degrees from the reader, even as it is clearly described as “true”. The reader is presented with the racial details of the storyteller and the listener in stark enough language so as to make the reader wonder at their relationship. Madame Delisle’s comment on the story at the end is clearly insensitive at the least, and yet the outside narrator emphasizes that the reader doesn’t even understand the language in which the story was told and the comment was made. What is implied here is that, although foreign and morally confusing to the reader, the characters, their relationships, and their words cannot be judged by those outside the cultural, regional milieu in which these characters exist. The physical beauty of the characters and the sensory beauty of the language they speak are mixed with the morally bewildering nature of their interactions and history.

Telling the story from a particular perspective not only serves to further thematic development, but also helps to capture and hold the reader’s interest. The point of view chosen by an author works in tandem with the language choices (diction) and sentence structure (syntax) to establish tone, mood, and/or atmosphere, as well as drive character and thematic development.

 

Throughout the stories, the reader is drawn into Creole culture through the use of French and patois and through the discrepancy between the language of narration and that of dialogue. The narration is sophisticated and elegant, whereas the dialogue reveals a character’s cultural and (often) racial identity quite clearly. The frequent use of nicknames for the characters also contributes to the sense of place for the setting and implies a limited, biased third-person narrator who is acting as a bridge between the world of the story and that of the reader.

In providing a clearly limited point of view on the story, authors rely on readers’ knowledge and experience to create effects such as irony and pathos.

The point of view in the stories presents the plot as the most superficial layer of the story, with the deeper levels of meaning being developed through the depiction of the setting. Both irony and pathos are created because Chopin has relied on the fact that most readers are unfamiliar with Creole culture, but do know about race relations in the Deep South before and after the Civil War.

The choice of point of view may add layers of meaning to figurative language such as similes, because it determines the actual significance of comparisons and associations.

The point of view of a limited third-person narrator allows the seeming objectivity of an outsider to be combined with the intimacy of an insider, as languages are mixed and characters’ backgrounds are related and their innermost thoughts and emotions explained. The reader is drawn in by the intimacy, but just enough details are related to bring the reader to the realization that, for example, the enchanting beauty of the physical surroundings, the characters, and their language stands in stark contrast to the moral ugliness of the cultural and social history in which they are ensconced.

Most authors maintain consistency in the point of view throughout their novels in order to avoid disturbing the reader’s “production” of meaning as they progress through the work as a whole. Authors who choose to shift the point of view within a work usually do so according to some “aesthetic plan or principle” (28) that the reader can understand and use in understanding the text and its themes.

These stories are very short, yet evoke multiple layers of meaning through the use of the limited, third-person point of view that Lodge describes as “indirect free style”.


18 Comments

  1. kbdoyle09 says:

    Let me know if you don’t see a link that allows you to comment.

  2. laithab says:

    The point being made about the author relying on the readers background information to understand the pathos and irony in the story also applies to “beyond the bayou”. In “beyond the bayou” the time isn’t explicitly told but we assume that it is post-civil war since the slave houses are empty. On the surface “beyond the bayou” seems like a children’s story about a lady who conquers her fear however for adults there is the idea of how the black woman was traumatized by the civil war and how she was still scared to cross the bayou which symbolizes the future after the abolishment of slavery. Another interesting point that only the adult reader would catch is how little has changed after the civil war. The white family was still living in the “masters” house and the slaves only moved closer to the main house in similar conditions as before the civil war as they still worked on the plantation.

    • sbeheri98 says:

      Great way of putting together the puzzle pieces of the story, Laith. Through the specific layout of Kate Chopin’s “Beyond the Bayou”‘s narrative structure and different point of views being demonstrated, the reader is able to understand through context given by the characters in the story, whether it be straightforward or hidden in a variety of ways, small details not told upfront in the story. An excellent example of this would be the time the story is taking place in as you said.

  3. nayaabkhan99 says:

    Lodge’s point about telling the story from a particular perspective in order to further thematic development holds true, especially in “La Belle Zoraide”. In “La Belle Zoraide.” We can assume that the story takes place pre-Civil War because of the interactions between the two characters, Manna-LouLou and Madame Delile. The story is told from the perspective of Manna LouLou (African American) who is caring for her white mistress, Madame Delise. The story alternates between Manna LouLou’s story of La Belle Zoraide along with her own interactions and reactions with Madame Delise. The subtle switches between the story and the interactions create a calm, comforting atmosphere even though the story was heart wrenching.This allows for the development of the characters and is also able to drive the thematic development of the story which leaves the reader shocked and slightly befuddled.

  4. hmahmoud11 says:

    I agree with Lodge’s point that the choice of point of view affects the way the reader responds emotionally to the story, however I believe that even stories in third person allow room for the reader to view the stories subjectively. Although all of the stories are told “objectively”, Chopin manages to elicit feelings of sympathy towards the characters from the readers, such as in “Beyond the Bayou” and “La Belle Zoraide”. In “Beyond the Bayou”, sympathy is felt towards La Folle when the story is revealed of her traumatic experience. Another example is in “La Belle Zoraide” when the readers feel sympathy for Zoraide when her mistress forbids her from marrying the man she loves. I also disagree with Lodge’s point that the most important decision the novelist makes is the choice of point of view, because similar to Roland Barthes’ theory of the “Death of the Author”, I believe that the authors intentions do not play a role in the way the reader interprets the story, therefore even if the author chooses the point of view to be in first or third person, it will not guarantee to make the reader view the story in a specific way.

  5. fbawardy says:

    I agree with the statements that Lodge mentions in his chapter “Point of View”. The author’s most important single choice is, in fact, the point of view in a book. In “Beyond the Bayou”, the point of view is told in a limited 3rd person. The style that that Lodge uses is indirect freestyle. This enables the reader to know the character’s feelings without the character conveying them. This point of view is essential to the story; had it been in 1st person or 3rd person, the story would be either too vague or too focused for the whole theme of the story. For example, the narrator explains how chéri meant the most to La Folle than any of the other girls. That feeling of La Folle wouldn’t have been explained had it been a complete 3rd person.

  6. hamzaans says:

    The objectivity and distance that the third person point of view creates in the beginning of the stories can be applied to “The Lilies”. the beginning shows Mamouche at a kind of distance. We know nothing about him except that he is a trouble maker. It is very hard to sympathize for a character that has fun destroying fences and causing fights between neighbors. The third person narrator aids in creating this distance by calling him a little vagabond and the young scamp. Later in the story she gives physical detail and immerses the reader with the dialect of Mamouche and Little Marie Loise.

    • sbeheri98 says:

      I understand what you mean. Through the use of a third person point of view narrative, the reader understood that Mamouche was, in fact, a troublemaking child. As the story progressed, the reader finds out that he is indeed a trouble maker through a narrative shift to Little Marie Louise and her conversation with Mamouche himself. Delicate and experienced narrative shifts like this ease the reader into an indulging and interesting story by building up the curiosity of certain events or people for an exciting and interesting climax. Good eye, Hamza.

  7. hawks389 says:

    Chopin’s use of freestyle, third person narrative, and different points of views to gives the reader the ability to inquire meaning from the writing and passages. It also allows the reader to see a deeper meaning to the pieces which may go unnoticed by a younger audience and see the dark hints that she gives through her characters and their stories. As seen in “Beyond the Bayou” the perspective of the reader shifts and the use of dialogue between characters gives the reader an idea of what the character. Also, by the use of third person narratives the reader is able to understand the character’s emotions and thoughts through their own actions and speech. When La Folle spoke kindly to Cheri one could easily interpret a loving motherly relationship. Being able to view La Folle’s actions as she overcomes her fear of the Bayou just to get Cheri back home strengthens that idea of their bond without even mentioning their emotions but more so by their actions by the different perspectives. This, when seen through the surface of the writing, is a passage of a lady who saves someone dear to her but a deeper understanding of it shows how La Folle was a former slave and lived in the old slave houses. The bayou itself may have represented her overcoming her past to start a new beginning which she later crosses with no hesitation to see Cheri. The use of third person narrative and different perspectives gave the story meaning and is agreeably very important in the author’s writing as stated by Lodge.

  8. itotonji says:

    I agree with the points made Lodge as to that choice of point of view influence the way us as readers understand the stories, yet Chopin provides the reader with very specific details. This allows the ideas the readers to use their imagination and creativity as well as what she wants them to understand. Also, Chopins choice of doing this allows different ages to understand her text differently. Children look at her stories and only understand as simply as possible and do not see the darker deeper meaning that adults understand. This is important because it allows each person to take a different perspective on the text being read.

  9. saraeltayeb says:

    Lodge made great points on how point of view is beneficial to the readers. also reading his different points about point of you gave me a better understanding of the short stories by Kate Chopin. a point that was made in this post which was “Telling the story from a particular perspective not only serves to further thematic development, but also helps to capture and hold the reader’s interest.” an example of that would be Beyond the Bayou when the story of La Folle was told through Kate Chopin.The other point “In providing a clearly limited point of view on the story, authors rely on readers’ knowledge and experience to create effects such as irony and pathos.” is very true, point of view is important when it comes from the reader, since they are the ones who will be able to analyze the text and like you said come up with deeper levels of meanings, and also point of view changes the reader’s perspective of the story. point of view also helps defines what is not clear in the original text.

  10. lubnamostafa says:

    The point Lodge makes about telling stories from a particular perspective serving both furthering thematic development and helping to capture and hold the reader’s interest is very much evident in these short stories. The third person narrative has us as readers hooked by using a storytelling format that Chopin also adds a hint of suspense to keep the readers strapped. This choice of point of view allowed Chopin to go beyond and use a narrative frame that furthers the thematic development of the short story in La Belle Zoraide. Especially since the narrator of the story can be intrusive and not withhold personal comments and feelings towards subjects being discussed

  11. lojains says:

    I agree with the lodge’s statement on how the point of view affects the reader’s emotions towards the story. I also think that the point of view affects the reader’s perspective of the story, if it’s in first person the narrator might leave out details or instances that the third person narrator would mention.

  12. sbeheri98 says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Lodge’s statements made in Point of View on the subject of how the point of view in stories are of immense importance. A well-told story by an experienced writer can only be achieved through the perfect point of view. I found this to be demonstrated most specifically in “Dead Man’s Shoes” where a shift between narration occurs from it’s beginning of a third person point of view to a later on in the short story where it becomes a first person point of view from Gilma’s eyes. For a majority of the story, it remains in a third person point of view as Gilma’s endures the current situation where his owner, “le vieux Gamiche”, dies and leaves Gilma alone on the farm. As the story proceeds, a sudden shift in narration occurs where there is explicit dialogue between Sepitome and Gilma through his eyes. I believe that this way the reader feels more indulged and is a part of the world that the author is trying to create whether or not the diction or syntax is difficult to understand due to the Creole culture at the time. In my opinion, the point of view of a story not only dictates how well a story could be told or how experienced a writer is, but it is the shift in narration through different points of view. This way the author handles and maneuvers the story through every event from every characters point of view in order for the reader to fully understand the situation, each character’s feelings and thoughts towards it, and to let the reader make their own assumptions as to what the outcome might be which would make them eager to turn the page and find out what really happens, hence the term “page turner”.

  13. amirah15 says:

    Telling the story from a particular perspective not only serves to further thematic development, but also helps to capture and hold the reader’s interest. The point of view chosen by an author works in tandem with the language choices (diction) and sentence structure (syntax) to establish tone, mood, and/or atmosphere, as well as drive character and thematic development. I agree with this point that Lodge makes. For example in La Belle Zoraide Kate chose to write in third person which added to the sorrow mood of the story. Even though it is a third person perspective the reader can still connect to the character and feel the pain La Belle is feeling. Tension and interest is formed from knowing that her baby is actually alive something that would only be known from third person.

  14. kbdoyle09 says:

    From Eva:
    David Lodge’s statement about the importance of point of view in any story is very much true, as it plays a key role in providing the reader with whatever information the author holds. Point of view can affect the emotional impact on the reader as well, it informs and has the ability to transport the reader into the mind of the characters. In Kate Chopin’s short story, La Bella Zoraide, the third person point of view allowed the readers to immerse themselves into the mind of Zoraide and understand the cause of her insanity. The choice in point of view in this story also allows for the reader to notice and take in the surroundings and environment of the character.

  15. kurdi33blog says:

    I agree with david lodges opinion about point of view, not only do i think that POV has a significant importance on lodges chapters but it applies to all stories. A third-person point of view is used in Kate Chopin’s “Beyond the Bayou” which helps the reader fully understand La folle and how shes portrayed in this point of view. point of view also helps the reader see the story from a different aspect.

  16. kbdoyle09 says:

    From John (Yahya):

    I agree with Lodge’s Point of view statements. The use of casual diction in Beyond the Bayou expresses instances of realism because it shows they are living an ordinary life, Realistic life. Manalulu uses words that is clearly slang to communicate with her masters son Cheri such as “Dont you look fo no dear”. The type of communication shows how she lives a life that is usual.

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