Friday, October 1, 2010

The Naive Narrator

The naive narrator steals into our fictions like a cat burglar on the alert for places where the valuables are stored, patient, calm under fire, observant, perhaps even sensitive.  This character's distinctive flaw is the ability to misunderstand behavior taken for granted by others or to be unaware of conditions conventionally thought of as compromising.

We may patronize such a character, even feel a tinge of being sorry, but we do not dislike.  More often than not, we even admire such a person.  After all, how could we not like Huck Finn or Seymour Glass or Nick Caraway?  How could we fail to feel empathy for Blanche Dubois?

A naive narrator will emerge from a story alternately fixed on a goal or in full pursuit of immature behavior, with the consequence that you as reader will be constantly vulnerable yourself to his or her actions.

Such characters are fertile; they are constant nudges in the ribs of our own naivete index, most correct in their behavior and assumptions when we have recently suspected the opposite of them.  Reminding us so vividly of undiscovered territory in our own naivete, we advance timidly forth, casting more naive shadows against the wall, hopeful our presentation and investigation will lead us to an awareness beyond mere confidence, extending toward the greater trait of acceptance.

Once we accept our characters for what they are, we have in effect allowed them to leave the house of our creation to fend for themselves, as they will rather than as we will them to do.

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