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Showing and Telling: Lodge’s Ideas Applied to Duong Thu Huong’s Paradise of the Blind

According to Lodge’s chapter on Showing and Telling, a fictional discourse occurs throughout many novels, alternating between showing us and telling us about the nature of the scene and what happened. This fictional discourse helps balance out the interesting and uninteresting aspects of the novel. Lodge defines “showing” by the quotes, language, and dialogue of the characters, while “telling” is defined by the objective summary of an unknown narrator.

When referring to Paradise of the Blind, it is extremely crucial that the narrator and point of view are considered. Paradise of the Blind revolves around Hang, a young Vietnamese girl, on her way to visit her uncle in Moscow. Paradise of the Blind is told through the first person perspective of Hang, and not a narrative in the third person point of view. Since the novel is written entirely from Hang’s perspective, it is acceptable to say that the author only uses “showing” throughout the entire novel and completely omits “telling” us what happened through a third person point of view.

The entire novel is based on Hang “showing” us what happened throughout her life through her use of description of scenes, dialogue between multiple characters, and the use of internal monologue to reflect on her past. Hang shows the reader the meaning of the novel through the life of a young Vietnamese girl, along with her family and cultural beliefs. For example, in Chapter 1, Hang narrates the scene when she receives the telegram from her Uncle Chinh asking her to come to Moscow. Later in the chapter, Hang recalls the conversation she had with her roommate, showing it through dialogue when her roommate asks, “What does the telegram say, Hang?” Hang balances out her use of dialogue and description of the scenes throughout the entire novel, where it can be seen that each chapter has a mixture of quotes, conversations, and descriptions that keeps the novel interesting and the reader curious to know what’s next. In chapter 4, Hang uses internal monologue to describe Ton, her father, and his life after he leaves her family in Hanoi. She also uses dialogue between Ton and his cyclo driver even though she was not present at the scene. Hang narrates how the cyclo driver helps Ton with his departure through the driver’s conversation with Ton, “I know you left the countryside… as the wise men say, nothing lasts forever…” Lodge’s definition of “showing” is expressed greatly in chapter 10 when Hang describes her life after Que spends most of their money trying to help her brother Chinh, who “falls ill with diabetes”. Hang shows the fight she has with her mom later on through dialogue which involves Que kicking Hang out when she says, “Get out. Get out of this house…” The constant switch in the way Hang shows what happened in the story-either through dialogue or description-continues throughout the novel.

Duong Thu Huong’s choice of only showing what happened instead of telling us what happened has a significant impact on the reader. The effect on the reader comes from having no third person narrator throughout the entire novel. This has a great effect because the reader can feel like they are walking in Hang’s footsteps and almost experience life and culture in Vietnam as a woman. The use of showing gives a better connection to the reader with Hang as it allows the reader to feel the same feeling and almost sympathize in a way whenever she’s in a dilemma. Another effect is that the reader won’t feel confused or lost while reading the story because the author won’t be switching once in a while at random from showing to telling the story. Since Hang uses internal monologue, it allows the reader to get a sense of her past as she shows the details through her reflections during the present day. The reader understands these scenes even though Hang was not present because the use of internal monologue gives the reader the illusion that Hang was present during that time through her mix of description and dialogue. Showing allows the reader to understand that the scene doesn’t necessarily have to be narrated in third person to explain the story. The reader can understand the novel more and become more interested when there is only one theme of telling the story, and in this case, having one narrator show the story in first person.


9 Comments

  1. MEtro BoOMin says:

    I had never known about this idea of an author’s use of “showing and telling” before reading your enlightening blogpost, so thank you for that first and foremost. As I continued to read, I began realizing my own examples of Duong Thu Huong’s use of the “showing” technique through Hang’s character and capturing the significance. From pages 208-225 Hang switches from describing the features, attitudes and actions of the Bohemian and engaging in dialogue with him providing the same insight. This alternating of styles allowed me to engage in the storyline on a deeper level as well as remain intrigued throughout it all. And as you explained in your blogpost, the events were definitely easy to follow and understand. I almost felt as if I was having this conversation with the Bohemian myself. Hang’s attraction became my attraction and her words and actions became my own.

  2. MEtro BoOMin says:

    ^-Sarah Abisourour

  3. freena1 says:

    This is really insightfully written. I think it also helped us relate to Hang since we are women too. Reading this whole book through one person’s perspective gives a sense of individuality to the book and to the conflicts and events that occur in the book. When reading the novel, Huong gives an accurate depiction of the culture and also gives a sense of a patriarchy complex. This can be applied even now, and this makes it a lot easier for the reader to understand, relate and sympathize with the novel.

  4. lanakheir says:

    Very insightful Jude! I completely agree with you about the novel having a greater connection with the reader because of the author’s use of “showing”. I believe that Hang is on a spiritual journey in order to better understand herself, and the author’s use of showing instead of telling invites the readers on this trip. In my blog post I mentioned that when the duration of an event is extended it indicates a greater emotional effect on Hang. After reading your post I realized that the author also uses dialogue during these emotional events in order to capture the readers attention. I believe the story feels more personal to the reader when the author extends the duration of an event and adds dialogue to the scene.

  5. WaNt SOmE MoRe says:

    What Jude had said about the novel was right, because while I was reading I really kind of understood the story more since it was hang that was narrating it, the reader could see everything from her precpective/ point of view but also sometimes kind of having another percepactive on a situation based on how it’s presented.
    Shahad

  6. nadineshihadeh says:

    I strongly agree with the points discussed throughout this blog post. Huong’s use of dialogue and description of the scenes throughout the “Paradise of the Blind” definitely leaves a momentous impact on the readers, where the readers can have a sense of being involved in the story and to be able to experience life in Vietnam as a woman. What I noticed after reading this particular blog post was that the chapter “A Sense of the Past” somewhat links with this chapter: “Showing and Telling”, in which Hang being the narrator of the story is extremely powerful, where she gives us readers a deeper understanding of the sufferings the people went through in the past. In conclusion, the ideas discussed are perfectly stated, showing how the author of the novel had used “showing”, allowing the reader to deeply know the events throughout the novel.

  7. sibelbarzinji says:

    I strongly agree with conclusion of this post. The influence of Hang’s point of view is what ultimately makes the reader sympathize with Hang and develop such a strong connection with the novel. Hang’s personal relationships are not only shown through inner monologues, they are shown through dialogue with all of the characters throughout the novel as well. For example, Hang’s resentment towards Uncle Chinh is evident through dialogue, as Hang has a certain stiffness when she is around him. The dialogue with her mother evokes a sense of love, as they joke around and exude a more relaxed mood in certain chapters.

  8. tulieibrahim says:

    Amazing post Jude! I had never considered how the use of showing and telling can completely change the way a novel is perceived. I agree with you completely as I also believe that the authors use of showing allowed the reader to truly connect to Hang as she shares her experiences with the audience.After reading your post i was able to detect a similarity in our themes. In my blogpost i discussed how Defamiliarization can be used to connect the reader to the story presented within a novel by personalizing it just as your theme of showing allowed for the reader to deeply connect with Hang.

  9. Tala J says:

    Very insightful thoughts! One point in particular stood out by how the author is telling a story by simply showing it as well by using interior monologues. This ultimately allows the readers to remain engaged and also gives them a picture of Hang’s presence even though she’s not there. The use of Hang’s poetic description, telling stories of her past, conveys a powerful message to the readers; therefore, making us feel and visualize the vivid picture that Hang makes.

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