Finding the narrator in Black and White
David Macauley’s Black and White, published in 1990, opens with a warning “stamped” right in the middle of its very first page: “This book appears to contain a number of stories that do not necessarily occur at the same time. Then again, it may contain only one story. In any event, careful inspection of both words and pictures is recommended.” Postmodern picturebooks often contain metafictive elements, including non-linear plots, self-referential writing and illustrations, narrators that directly address the reader, polyphonic narrators, numerous intertextual references, blending of genres, and indeterminate plot, characters and settings (McCallum, 1996). This paper aims at analyzing the postmodern picturebook Black and White using narrative theory concepts with the objective of trying to determine the kind of narrator found in this story. On the very same opening page where the warning is located, the reader will also find another clue about the story s/he is about to read. A black and white drawing of a prison window with its bars sawed through and a sheet rope descending towards the bottom (and beyond) the page. It is not until the reader turns the page, however, that s/he will find out who the rope belongs to. The next spread is the title page, although, in this case, the title is not, as one would expect, Black and White. Instead, the reader finds that the double spread is divided into four different cross-sections, each with its own title: Seeing Things, A Waiting Game, Udder Chaos, and Problem Parents (read clockwise). Hanging from the sheet rope that crosses the recto page, is a man in striped clothes and a black mask (a robber? an escaped convict?) who seems to belong to the story titled Udder Chaos. As the reader turns to the next few pages, four different narratives unfold. Seeing Things tells the story of a boy’s first solo trip on a train. A Waiting Game is the story of a group of commuters...
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