Narratology Dictionary for Great Expectations

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Dictionary of Narratology Terms for Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’

Narratology- The branch of literary criticism that deals with the structure and function of narrative themes, conventions, and symbols. A term used since 1969 to denote the branch of literary study devoted to the analysis of narratives, and more specifically of forms of narration and varieties of narrator. Narratology as a modern theory is associated chiefly with European structuralism, although older studies of narrative forms and devices, as far back as Aristotle's Poetics (4th century BCE) can also be regarded as narratological works.

1 Antagonist- The antagonist in literature is a character who represents or creates obstacles that the protagonist must overcome. In Great Expectations there is not a single antagonist, but a few throughout the course of the novel. Characters like Magwitch, Mrs. Joe, Miss Havisham and Estella can all be referred to as antagonists at some parts of the novel; however they are all redeemed by the end of the novel. The three characters of Orlick, Bentley Drummle, and Compeyson have not redeemed themselves by the end of the novel and can therefore be referred to as the ‘true’ antagonists of Great Expectations. 2 Comic Relief- This is the inclusion of a comedic character or a humorous scene/phrase to relieve tension in an otherwise serious section of the literature- its purpose being to relieve tension. Pip as a young narrator in the first section of the novel often serves this purpose, putting a childlike and therefore humorous spin on serious situations (like Scout in Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’). Joe often serves to provide this humor (especially at the start of the book when Pip is a young boy) because of his relationship with the younger Pip1. 3 Compression of Time- This is fitting of a long amount of time into a short amount of text. (This technique is useful in bildungsroman novels2) Dickens uses this technique throughout Great Expectations, for example in Chapter 12; ‘I insensibly fall into a general mention of these journeys as numerous, because it was at once settled that I should return every alternate day at noon for these purposes, and because now I am going to sum up a period of at least eight or ten months’. 4 Description- This is one of the four rhetorical modes3. Description is the fiction writing mode for transmitting a mental image of the particulars of the story. Description enhances the readers understanding of a situation, and Dickens (along with countless other writers throughout history) has used description throughout his novel. For example, the second paragraph of Chapter 8 of Great Expectations is heavy with descriptions of the room in which Pip slept that night, Mr. Pumblechook’s clothing and his shopkeepers, and the behavior of Mr. Pumblechook and the people around him. 5 Diegesis – This is describing or reporting.  Diegesis means telling a story rather than acting it out. Diegesis covers everything the narrator tells us to advance the story without quoting others. 6 Fabula and Syuzhet- These are terms originating in Russian Formalism and employed in narratology that describe narrative construction. Syuzhet is an employment of narrative and Fabula is the chronological order of the retold events. For example in Great Expectations, the Fabula of the book is the way Pips life happened in chronological order, where the Syuzhet is the way the story is told in the book; from the point of an older Pip looking backwards on his life. 7 False Document- This is the style of first-person narrative that Dickens has written Great Expectations in. It in a novel in which the narrator makes explicit reference to the fact he is writing or telling a story. The same quote used in Compression of time (cf. no.3) demonstrates this narrative technique. Pip addresses the readers, making it known to the readers that he is aware he is telling a story. 8 Fiction- This is the form of...
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