The Analysis Of The Narrative Point Of View In The Old Man And The Sea

Topics: Narrator, Narrative, Narrative mode Pages: 7 (2181 words) Published: February 27, 2015

The Analysis of the Narrative Point of View in The Old Man and the Sea By WinnieYin
【Summary】This paper is dedicated to a study on the narrative point of view in Hemingway’s novella The Old Man and the Sea. Possibly Ernest Hemingway’s most enduring work of fiction, it is noted for its narrative art, in which the narrative point of view plays a huge part. The story is sometimes told in the narrator’s third person omniscient point of view, sometimes in an observer’s view and sometimes in the character’s. The paper centers on the illustration of the alternation of focalization and its influence on the theme. 【Key words】narrative point of view, focalization, man, nature

Ernest Hemingway, an American author and short-story writer, is one of the most famous American writers of the 20th century. His novella The Old Man and the Sea earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. In the novella, the author explores the human interaction with the natural world. The sea, where life begins and evolves, is the origin and development of human culture. If the old man represents the human being, the sea is to represent the nature, our living environment. The old man’s contradictory psychological state towards the sea and other living creatures reflects the harmonious and contradictory relationship between human and nature. In many ways, all that can be known of The Old Man and the Sea is revealed in its title. It is a simple, brief story of an old man, a Cuban fisherman named Santiago. He is a poor, solitary man whose possession consists of little more than the clothes he wears. However, Santiago is rich in determination and perseverance, and he refuses to succumb to a streak of luck. When the novella opens, he has gone eighty-four days without catching a fish, in other words, without success in making a living as a fisherman. On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago sets out his journey to the sea, lasting three days and nights, again alone and, after an enormous struggle, he catches the biggest marlin he has never seen or imagined, only to have it destroyed by sharks. At the end of the story, Santiago’s material situation is no different than it was at the beginning. He is alone in his shack without having brought to shore a fish to sell at the market. The bulk of the story is presented in the narrator’s third person omniscient point of view. Sometimes it is also told by an observer and sometimes by character himself. With the alternation of focalization, the narrator tells the story on multiple levels. The narrative with zero focalization, from the narrator’s third person point of view, tends to be more objective, for the narrator stands outside the story and his eyesight is relatively clam, allowing a free, clear and comprehensive narration of the whole thing. However, it keeps a narrative distance with readers and reduces the reliability. The narrative with external focalization, from the perspective of an observer, prefers implying to showing. With this kind of focalization, the narrator stands outside the story as an observer. His eyesight is relatively objective but his narrative scope is limited to the outer world of the character, such as utter dialogues between characters. The employment of external focalization requires readers to learn the development of the event as an observer and to imagine. The narrative with internal focalization makes the narrative reliable but it is always limited by one character’s perspective which prevents a free and clear narrative. Hemingway employs the alternation of focalization to make full use of the advantages of three kinds of focalization to present a clear, objective and reliable narrative. Hemingway begins the story with zero focalization:

He was an old man who fished alone in the skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four day now without taking a fish. P1

Hemingway adopts the third person omniscient narrator to tell readers the protagonist and the event...
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