The Importance of Frame Narrative within a Novella
The power of a literary work to affect a reader is often mysterious. What is it within the work that elicits an emotional response from the reader? Upon first glance, one might conclude that a narrative’s content is the source of this affective power – and often it is. The form of a narrative plays a significant a role in shaping the way a reader experiences a story; the manner in which it is told is as important as specific content of what is being communicated. While there are multiple forms of narrative, frame narrative is a particularly useful form, serving various functions within a story. This essay will demonstrate the structure and function of the frame narrative in the novellas May Day by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers, and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
The prologue in May Day novella is that of a fairy tail. He uses recognizable words and phrases that are commonly found in fairy tales, such as: “never had there been such splendor,” and “I have no more slippers and alas, I have no more trinkets” (Fitzgerald 25-26), in order to create a fantasy-filled setting for the reader. The tone of the prologue is in stark contrast to that of chapter one and the rest of his work. By juxtaposing the fairy tale style prologue with an ultra realistic narrative the reader is jolted into the brutal realities of post war existence. This proves to be an extremely effective way of framing the story for a few reasons. It not only stirs a sense of discomfort and disorientation within the reader, but it also seems to be a passive political commentary of the devastating effects on the citizens of a country at war.
According to his article "Fitzgerald's "May Day": The Uses of Irresponsibility", Robert Roulston’s observes that May Day is filled with powerful paradoxes. Framing the story with a fairytale-like prologue “makes each side shine more brightly and juxtaposes satire...
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