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Narrative Structure by David Lodge and Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong

Incorporated within the chapter on narrative structure, David Lodge states a fixed definition of narrative unity as proposed by Aristotle: “a beginning is what requires nothing to precede it, an end is what requires nothing to follow it, and a middle needs something both before and after it.” In this way, the effect of the novel’s structure is realized over the duration of the story, rather than in a defined occurrence. In the novel, Paradise of the Blind, the main character and narrator Hang, uses paragraphs of long, complex sentences when describing her family’s past through her perspective. The story immediately begins with a description of a current incident with no prior introduction about herself. The effectiveness of this start however, is the foreshadowing of her near future and supposed destiny when Madame Vera states that she does not appear to be fortunate. Throughout the description of the memories Hang experiences when on the train to Moscow, comes the reader’s realization that the narrator is limited in her knowledge of the past and the nature of those around her. This is due to the formation of her core experiences as a mere child.
Lodge also suggests that within the narrative structure of a story, “direct speech” usually portrays a deeper sense of the character’s personality than “reported speech”. This is evident when Hang asks about a character her family speaks of by the name of Ton and the reply is, “your father you poor thing”. Though the dialogue within the narrator’s recall is much more concise and direct that the reflective descriptive sentences, it often reveals more about her true innocent ignorance. Consequently, the reader tends to pity and sympathize with this character who “doesn’t have much luck”. As Hang continues to provide more information about her past, she afterwards returns to her current presence on the train. In these consistent shifts of time and place, the reader becomes aware that the plot of the novel is in her recall of experiences which have already passed. Once reminding herself as well as the reader of her present situation, she “attempts to justify her behavior” and point of view. This is another major prong to the theory of unity in narrative structure as asserted by Lodge. This attempt may be seen when Hang states, after she describes her parents’ nature, that she feels an “inextricable tie of blood and race” as she is linked with her past. With this statement, Hang works to justify her continuous and extensive retrospection throughout the story.
The true effect of the novel’s structure is realized mainly in the decision Hang makes in the final moments of the novel. As she decides to sell her aunt’s house, she symbolically and literally attempts to break away from the restrictions her past has inflicted upon her until this present day. In this way the reader not only understands that the story was simply in the memories of the narrator, but also that Hang is not deserving of pity or sympathy when making her final decision. Her choice requires no further elaboration because in her intention to abandon the past in the form of culture and family ties, only then does she become aware and capable of controlling her destiny, previously described as “unlucky”.
Randa Desouky


1 Comment

  1. ahmeddahir6 says:

    Randa you went in depth on your topic which I highly praise you for that. You mentioned how “direct speech” usually portrays a deeper sense of the character’s personality than “reported speech” and you back it up with evidence from the book which shows your understanding of the context. Also you mentioned that the true effect of the novel’s structure is realized mainly in the decision Hang makes in the final moments of the novel. You pointed out the main effect and its interpretation. I personally think you did an excellent job on pin pointing every detail with great evidence. Great Job!

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