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Aspects of Narrative | Focalisation and Diegesis

Steve Campsall | Sunday October 09, 2011



Guide Navigation

  1. Introduction
  2. A Critical Vocabulary
  3. Tips for Improving Exam Grades
  4. Guide to Narrative: Narrative Frameworks
  5. Guide to Narrative: Narrative Concepts
  6. Focalisation and Diegesis
  7. Mimesis
  8. Narrative Forms and Structures
  9. Help with Exam Revision
  10. Analysis of Cousin Kate, poem by Christina Rossetti


A fictional story has to have a ‘teller’ in the form of the voice of a narrator, an equivalent of the real-life voice that tells an anecdote; but whereas that person is real, the teller of a fictional story is an imagined being. The narrator needs to be constructed in such a way that the reader is willing to ‘go along with’ and ‘want to listen to’ the story being told. Thus the qualities of the narrative voice are crucial to the success of the narrative. After all, in real life, you wouldn’t listen to a stranger’s story… yet as a reader of fiction that’s what we do all the time; and that stranger isn’t even a real person!  The voice, therefore, needs to be made inviting and interesting; or perhaps even intriguing.

  • An error frequently made is to assume that the narrator is the voice of the author of the story. No. The narrator is always a fictional being – a character in a way, whether or not they appear in the storyworld itself.


The bias, viewpoint or perspective of this fictional ‘voice’ needs to be manipulated by the writer simply because a narrator that ‘knows it all’ would risk being rejected as ‘unrealistic’ and thus to break through the quite fragile surface of believability. Just how much information the narrator can ‘know’ leads to a more or less ‘restricted narrator’, one whose perspective reflects more one character than another perhaps. This process of creating a restricted narrator is called ‘focalisation’.

To analyse at the level of focalisation is subtle and thus can easily lead to higher marks; but it isn’t a requirement of your unit – it is simply another analytical tool you can...

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