In David Lodge’s “The Art of Fiction”, Lodge discusses the purpose and importance of chapter division within fictional novels. Along with arguing that chapter division’s purposes include offering the reader time to take breath and serving as an intervening pause, his strongest argument is that it serves as a transition between different times and places that appear within a fictional narrative. Additionally, he discusses the importance of the rhythm and tempo of a book as well as the importance and implied significance of concluding sentences. Lodge’s understanding of chapter division parallels with what is seen in Duong Thu Huong’s novel, Paradise of the Blind.
As stated by Lodge, “we tend to take the division of novels into chapters for granted, as if it were as natural and inevitable as the division of the discourse into sentences and paragraphs. But of course it is not.” In the novel Paradise of the Blind, Huong strategically breaks up the text into smaller subunits in order to clearly mark a shift between times and places. These constant transitions cause the tempo of the novel to depend on the structural organization. Readers can easily detect that the chapter’s novels are sparked by an emotion Hang feels that tend to trigger a flashback. For example, chapter two concludes with Hang listening to Russian music wishing that “mother could feel this revolt, if only her heart could gather a spark from this inferno”. The mention of her mother’s inability to revolt sparked the introduction of Chapter 3 in which she discusses her mothers difficult past. Another example is the shift between chapter 3 and 4. Chapter 3 ends with Hang mentioning her ability to “see her father clearly” after being described by her mother, which prompts the introduction of chapter 4 in which Hang discusses her father’s struggle and relations with people of the village during the time before her birth. By dividing the chapters as such, Huong creates a pattern that the readers become accustomed to, allowing them to easily differentiate between the past and present as they read the novel.
Interestingly, the pattern caused by chapter division offers a rhythm that the readers subconsciously become accustomed to. Huong purposely plays with the tempo and manipulates it to her advantage to imply, signify, or highlight a certain event or flashback. For example, chapters one through five establish a pattern in which Hang’s emotion spark the flashback that will be introduced in the following chapter. However, Huong causes a change in speed from the transition of chapter five to chapter six when Hang completes a memory that was being discussed in the previous chapter—a speed that the audience was not familiar with. This hints to readers that Huong is subtly trying to highlight or imply that the flashback significantly contributes to the plot of the novel.
Huong also manages to make concluding sentences “act as a curtain line for a play to heighten an effect of surprise”. Throughout the novel, all flashbacks presented are often a result of an emotion felt by Hang which introduces them to background information about her family. The structure of the novel allows readers to not only experience a sentimental story which offers insight into political and social struggles faced in Vietnam, but also a tempo that swiftly guides them throughout the book.
Lodge’s understanding of chapter division parallels with what is seen in Duong Thu Huong’s novel, Paradise of the Blind, in which Huong exemplifies the importance of chapter division as well as the rhythm and tempo of a novel.