Raspreet Bhatia

Professor Alvarez

English 363

3 July 3, 2011

The True Speaker: Manipulation of Focalization and Narration in Cervantes’s Don Quixote and Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story”

An author’s role is to create a character list, a climax within a plot and a memorable conclusion. But, most importantly an author must choose how to focalize the narrative. The point of my paper is to convey the importance of narration and focalization within the considered texts. By focusing on Guillermo Samperio’s short story, “She Lived in a Story,” the audience experiences a frame story with elaborate focalization. The idea of a story within a story is used to depict the various narrators embedded into a short story. To further my analysis on how focalization and narration is manipulated in literature; I looked at the various shifts in Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote. Cervantes includes historians and translators within his text to expose the many ways the story can be told. I hope to clarify the different ways that Samperio and Cervantes play with focalization and narration because without it there is no way to read the text.

Narration is the plot that is being told while focalization is how it is being told. For example, a narrator can be a male, who is obsessed with a particular topic and chooses to give positive light on this topic. However if there is a bias on this same topic, the entire story can be focalized through a negative perception. This key feature needs to be understood in order to interpret the texts with such special characteristics. These two terms are extremely related and affect each other when reading a narrative. Being aware of this particular style of writing prepares the reader in advance and he/she is less likely to be confused when deciphering the real narrator.

Context Used within Analysis

My analysis deals with the field of focalization and how it can be broken down into smaller parts. As discussed in Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative by Manfred Jahn, a “focalizer is the agent whose point of view orients the narrative text.  A text is anchored on a focalizer’s point of view when it presents (and does not transcend) the focalizer’s thoughts, reflections and knowledge, his/her actual and imaginary perceptions, as well as his/her cultural and ideological orientation” ( Jahn N3.2.2). By presenting all of these ideas, a focalizer is exposed to the audience, and he or she can be judged based on such details. Jahn argues that every focalizer is in charge of the way the text is told. Once this focalizer is established, he or she can take on two roles, one being an overt narrator and the other being a covert narrator. The texts later discussed both portray the use of an overt narrator “who refers to him/herself in the first person (“I”, “we” etc.).” This type of narrator is known to have a “distinctive voice” according to Jahn, providing the reader with the key events of the considered text. Other qualities which are found within an overt narrator include addressing the narratee, providing the reader with common denotations, and intruding into the story to give comments. When addressing the narratee, the speaker can either address him/herself or a previous narrator. This is how focalization becomes intricate and a reader must pay close attention to who is in charge of reporting the text. (Jahn N3.1.4).

 Additional terminology which I hope to explore is homodiegetic and hetrodiegetic narration. A homodiegetic narrator is a character in the story who is explaining the plot to the reader. “The prefix ‘homo-‘ points to the fact that the individual who acts as a narrator is also a character on the level of action. A special case of homodiegetic narration is autodiegetic narration, in which the narrator is the protagonist of his/her story.” Once a character is focalized in this method, he/she is in spot light and is addressed as a positive figure. On the other hand, Jahn explains that a heterodiegetic narrator is “not present as a character in the story. The prefix ‘hetero-‘ alludes to the ‘different nature’ of the narrator’s world as compared to the world of the action” (Jahn N3.1.5). In this case, the narrator is not a character so anything he/she focalizes derives from an outsider perception. The contrasting aspect within these two techniques is whether or not the narrator partakes in the text. It can be concluded that both of the texts under research, Don Quixote and “She Lived in a Story” take a little of each form of narration. Both Cervantes and Samperio focalize their homodiegetic and heterodiegetic characters. Manipulating the text so that the type of narration is not distinguishable is very enticing as a reader. The final section of this analysis looks at whether or not the narrator is easily identified. According to Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative, Jahn concludes that “a matrix narrative is a narrative containing an ’embedded’ or ‘hypo narrative’. The term ‘matrix’ derives from the Latin word mater (mother, womb) and refers to “something within which something else originates”(Jahn N2.4.1). Every story has a matrix narrator because this is the person who creates the entire framework of a story. Without the matrix narrator there would not be a solid structure to follow. Again this technique becomes difficult to follow when second degree narratives are created within the original matrix narrator. For instance, a story can begin by being told by the matrix, and then an additional character takes control of the story, providing a second degree narrative. Through the use of a focalizer, overt narrator, homodiegetic and hetrodiegetic narrator and a matrix narrator, I hope to establish how Cervantes and Samperio are constantly shifting the point of view within the stories.

Methods in Use

Guillermo Samperio, author of “She Lived in a Story” expresses the life of two separate characters and how they come into contact with each other. The characters Guillermo Segovia and Ofelia are placed within a frame narrative where they each have their own chance to take control over the focalization in the story. Both characters are overt narrators because they refer to him/herself as they speak to the audience. First off, Segovia and Ofelia both guide the reader on how they will create their own story and provide comments throughout the story. For example, Segovia explains how illiterate the young boy was at the lecture as well as his ideas on the similarities between architecture and writing. Ofelia is seen as an overt narrator when she gives us her expressions of being in the eye and being watched. The difference lies in the fact that Segovia is being focalized through Samperio’s view in the beginning when his characteristics and actions are seen through the lens of the main narrator. Once Segovia is able to create the story, he gains some control, and takes on the “distinctive voice” of narration. His comments and thoughts about others portray an overt character according to Manfred Jahn. Ofelia portrays a stronger overt narrator because she constantly expresses her own ideas and how she feels about her surroundings while stating “I”. When Ofelia claims “I open the door, I close it,” she is acting as an overt character because of her word choice as well as her interrupting comments within the story (Samperio 59). Later, Ofelia explains how “I know very well that I still live inside the gaze” ( Samperio 60), managing to the appellative discourse function. This style is used by overt characters to denote a general idea which the readers are aware of. The “gaze” which Ofelia is expressing comes from the first person point of view, and she is making it a point to focalize the story so the audience is aware of the same frame story she is aware of. This same technique is portrayed again when Samperio states, “He stops next to me; in silence, accepting our fatal destiny, he takes my hand and I am willing (62). As is evident, Samperio takes control of the way the narrative is being focalized and maneuvers the ending the way he wants it to be. Diction such as “our” and “I” are again signs of an overt character. The distinctive voice which Jahn reiterates is displayed through the statement by Samperio. He is able to place a connection between Ofelia and Segovia at this part in the story. Both of the characters understand that they are actors in other narratives and do not have as much control as they originally thought. Both Segovia and Ofelia see that the gaze which is expressed within the story was actually the way the entire story was focalized and that they never were the true narrators.

Along with Sampperio, Cervantes also depicts overt narration within Don Quixote. To further prove how this is embedded within the text, one can consider Shannon Polchow’s Manipulation of Narrative Discourse: From Amadis de Guela to Don Quixote. Polchow contends how authors incorporate many methods to show who is speaking in a story. “Polchow also argues how a new narrative voice appears later in the story, producing confusion for the reader. (72). Don Quixote de la Mancha is written by Miguel Cervantes but it is unclear who is narrating the entire story. It is evident that the narration switches from first point of view and to the third point of view. The stories which are addressed in the novel are framed within each other and all include some sort of dialogue. This then raises a question for the audience of who is telling the story. The text states, “But this doesn’t matter much, as far as our story’s concerned, provided that the narrator doesn’t stray one inch from the truth” ( Cervantes 25). The text also states that “… and if anything worthwhile is missing from it, it’s my belief that it’s the dog of an author who wrote it that’s to blame, rather than any defect in the subject. At all events the second part began like this according to the translation:” (Cervantes 76). Cervantes is pushing forth the overt narration because the statement is from the first person point of view. Words such as “our” and “my” connect directly to the reader and let the reader know that whoever is telling the story is speaking from experience. The fact that the speaker is addressing another naratee further proves that the current commentator is an overt one.

            A second element which is apparent in the works of Guillermo Samperio and Miguel Cervantes is the use of homodiegetic and hetrodiegetic narration. Most texts stick to one form of either internal or external commentary but Don Quixote and “She Lives in a Story” does not maintain this structure. As stated earlier by Jahn, a homodiegetic narrator is one where the character is present in the story. This style is depicted when Samperio, Segovia and Ofelia put the story through their own view. Segovia is mentioned first when he is in the story he is tells us everything as he is on his way home. Each traffic light helps convey the details of his wandering mind. Similarly, Ofelia explains that she is in a “gaze”, asserts how she will create her own story, and realizes how she is nothing more than a character. Segovia explains how “In one way or another actors live in the text. They live the part they were given to play and they live the text; they do not embody anyone at all” (Samperio 56). Also, the explanation can connect to a homodiegetic narrator because “living the part they were given to play” is Jahn’s description of being in action with the text. The statement is Segovia’s way of telling the reader that the most power lies within the author, and then after that the actors who play certain roles have the ability to make a piece better. Here, Segovia is explaining how actors live in the text by taking on the traits and roles of a character. They are given certain attributes by the author and they mold themselves into this new being. The actors live “in” the text by adapting to the circumstances and feelings that the author puts them in. When Segovia states “they do not embody anyone at all” he is pointing out the fact that the character is a fresh creation of the author, so that it cannot be duplicated or imitated. It is interesting however to take note that as Segovia is making this claim, but Samperio is the one who is placing this idea in Segovia’s mind since he is the author. Samperio’s well developed narrative incorporates a homodiegetic and hetrodiegetic narrative in the same sentence. This is a clear example of a hetrodiegetic narrative because Samperio is not in the text, yet it is one of his ideas which are being exuded through another character.

Miguel Cervantes also uses both dimensions of a homodiegetic and hetrodiegetic narrator within his novel. Through the chivalric tales of Don Quixote de la Mancha, the breaks which take place within the short stories convey a homodiegetic narrator. Cervantes is depicted as a character within the story he is narrating and his presence flows with the actions of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, especially when his opinions are stated.” There is a multitude of voices contained within the diegetic dimension” (Polchow 71). The changes taken on when Cervantes or the unknown narrator is telling the story show the reader that whoever the narrator is, he or she is present at the action level. Polchow also argues that there is a “hetrodiegetic narrator who will continue on as the second author in chapter nine” (Polchow 71). A prologue is used as an introduction to the story as well as the author. In Don Quixote, Cervantes ends up getting help from an outside unknown character when writing his prologue. This friend claims that, “Your first problem about the sonnets, epigrams, and eulogies written by important and titled people that you lack for the beginning of the book, can be remedied if you take the trouble to write them yourself and then christen them and give them whatever names you like…” (Cervantes 13). This statement continues with the speaker explaining ways for Cervantes to go about writing a prologue. Here the speaker is giving tips to Cervantes to make his life easier. Once this friend takes control of the way that the prologue is focalized, the reader is inclines to believe whatever this new person is saying. This shift can be depicted as a heterodiegetic one because the narrator is separated from the text.

Finally, a matrix narrator may be the simplest form to understand but it is within this technique that authors are able to manipulate the rest of the story. Jahn’s Narratology research explains how a matrix narrator is the mian author and developer for a text. This matrix then can create or get rid of other narrators who are present within the piece of literature. The matrix narrator also is responsible for setting up the point of view.  In “She Lives in a Story”, Segovia and Ofelia are authors of their own tale, while Samperio is the matrix narrator. After Segovia establishes his story, Ofelia takes on a new role by beginning her own tale. She is able to connect the two stories when she states, “I write that he writes a story that I live in” (Samperio 60) to show the depth within the frame work. Ofelia accepts that she is a character in another characters narrative and reframes the situation by attempting to create her own story. By creating this new story, she is the one who is in charge and has the power to give the roles to the other characters, whereas before she was the one who was being watched. Her story incorporates another characters actions, motives and thoughts. The line contends that there are two separate stories going on but finally the two characters are aware of both of their existences. Shifting the point of view to blatantly tell the audience what is going on in her mind as well as in Segovia’s story is a concept which derives only from the matrix narrator. The statement above exemplifies what Samperio, the matrix, has done in his short story.

Matrix narration is also used in Don Quixote. Cervantes is the true narrator of the entire novel, but other narrators also take their own turn in doing some commentary. Between Cervantes, an unknown historian, Cide Hamete Benengeli and Don Quixote, the novel allows the appearance of first and second degree narrators. The narrator is constantly being questioned as different stories are being exposed to the reader because it is unclear who is speaking and when a shift takes place. At the conclusion of one of these stories, the narrator must stop, “…because at this point the wise and circumspect historian Cide Hamete Benengeli put an end to the third” (Cervantes 243). As a reader, this line stands out because it reminds the audience that there is a story being told from a third party, not the story maker himself. Previous to this line, a story was being told but the narrator has to stop because the person he is using as a source takes a break in telling that particular story. The point of view comes to a shift here because the reader is unaware of who is telling the story and how it will continue. Although this is not the first time that Cide Hamete Benengeli is mentioned, it still reminds the reader that the narrator is telling the story based on Benengeli. As the reader continues with the story from the first time the name is mentioned until this point, it is easy for the reader to forget who is telling the story, but this line helps the reader put everything back in perspective. It also gives Cervantes a lot of credit because it shows the reader what an intricate story he created. As the matrix, Cervantes is making sure to integrate all of these other narrators into his perception.

Who is the True Speaker?

            It is evident that throughout this research one can see the trends that authors take to create such elaborate pieces of literature. Both Cervantes and Samperio allow a reader to break down focalization into aspects such as overt narration, homodiegetic narration, hetrodiegetic narration and matrix narration. Among such areas of study, a reader becomes well educated on how to take on a reading with embedded frame work and levels of narration. The question of who the real narrator is still lies, and can only be answered after comprehending the terminology related with focalization. It is clear that these two texts have more than one narrator but their authors play the most didactic role. Overall, there is a clear depiction that the authors of such texts have the ability to manipulate focalization.

Throughout my research, I learned how authors take on the idea of a matrix narrator and then place characters into the text. These characters then have the ability to become narrators within the story, creating an intricate frame work. In order to successfully understand the manipulation of narration that authors have, I would have to focus on other forms of art. For example, it may be useful to understand if there are any differences within plays or movies. Like narratives, both plays and movies have directors, produces and story writers so it would be interesting to see if they change the way other characters become narrators. Also it would be (interesting) to see what ways an actual live actor can display the change in narration as opposed to a novel. Additionally, it would be helpful to look at just the language that the authors use when he or she is creating a story with multiple narrators. This form of deconstuctionalism would be as excellent way to understand how the shifts take place within the diction. As a reader, I find it extremely interesting to follow such trends and hope to successfully understand all of the hard work that is involved with these tactics in order to produce my own focalized texts.

Work Cited

De Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel. The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha. 1605. Trans. John Rutherford. Columbus, MT: Penguin, 2003. Print.

“DON QUIJOTE 3.” ludovico. 28 November 2008. Web. 30 June 2011.

“Don Quijote De La Mancha.” .” 25 May 2009. Web. 29 June 2011.

Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” Poems, Plays, and Prose: A Guide to the Theory of Literary Genres. Cologne: U of Cologne Press, 2002. Web.

Polchow, Shannon M. “Manipulation of Narrative Discourse:From Amadis De Gaula to “Don Quixote”. Hispania. 88.1(2005):71-81. 27 June 2011. Web

Samperio, Guillermo.  “She Lived in a Story.” New Writing from Mexico. Ed. Reginald Gibbons. Evanston, IL: TriQuarterly Books, Northwestern University: 1992. Print.

Print Friendly