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The Unreliable Narrator

An unreliable narrator can affect the reader’s understanding of a love plot in several ways. There can be moments of what psychoanalysts might call projection or displacement. Other narrative moments might showcase the characteristics of the narrator as she/he are emotionally involved in the plot. As a result of this, they may not be able to tell the story exactly as they see, but instead as how they’d like it to be seen. This type of unreliable narrator is not constricted to time period, however still remains present in many stories ranging from the Victorian era to Contemporary fiction, such as Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The narrators Lockwood and Nelly and Nick Carraway, respectively, tell us of iconic love stories but do not remain impartial in their telling, thus affecting the way we perceive the stories and the characters their narration is about.

For example, Wuthering Heights is a notable love story that follows the romance of the story’s central characters Catherine and Heathcliff. We are introduced to this narrative by Lockwood, a Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange visitor who sees spends the night in Catherine’s bed, observing her remaining belongings. When he has a dream and is woken in a fright, he replays these images to Heathcliff and instantly realize that there was a severed connection between the two. Wanting to know more, he enlists the help of the housemaid Nelly, who has witnessed Catherine and Heathcliff grow up, to learn more about the romance of Catherine and Heathcliff.

As Nelly is introduced and plays a more active role as a narrator in this story, her influence in the way the story is presented becomes more apparent, as we see that she doesn’t really care for Heathcliff, regardless of his initially circumstances; being adopted at an impressionable age. Her side comments throughout her narration leaves impressionable marks on the reader as she projects her disdain for Heathcliff her telling of the story.



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~ by Ravenn Haynes on March 19, 2018.

One Response to “The Unreliable Narrator”

  1. This starts out well with a clear account of the term and its implications. You might also highlight how the unreliable narrator’s bias forces the reader to try to read the text more scrupulously, filtering our the predispositions of the narrator.

    It seems that you ran out of time, though. In the exam, you could return to this to flesh out the remainder of the response. While the response on Wuthering Heights is detailed, a few choice quotations would round this out and make it more detailed. In a crunch, just including a line or two about how you would develop the Gatsby text at the end would also help us see better the direction that your ideas were moving in.

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