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.