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Browsing by Subject "functional constructivist narrative theory"

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  • Kaakinen, Rebekka (2023)
    In this thesis, I examine the concept of the unreliable narrator by studying the character narrators in Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl (2012) and Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train (2015). I mainly focus on the female protagonists, Amy from Gone Girl and Rachel from The Girl on the Train, because previous reviews and studies have deemed them unreliable. Assessing Amy’s and Rachel’s reliability as narrators allows me to test current theories on unreliable narration. I consider some recent cognitive, constructivist, and rhetorical views on this issue and demonstrate how combining Lisa Zunshine’s cognitive theory about embedded mental states in literature, Tamar Yacobi and Meir Sternberg’s functional constructivist theory about mechanisms of integration, as well as James Phelan’s rhetorical theory about six different types of unreliable narrators helps in understanding when, how, and why a narrator is unreliable. My study shows that both Amy in Gone Girl and Rachel in The Girl on the Train occasionally depict features of unreliable narration but have nearly the opposite functions in their stories. While Amy surprises readers with her unreliability, Rachel is more reliable than first expected. In addition, many of Rachel’s unreliable features can be explained or at least attenuated by other literary phenomena than narratorial unreliability. Rachel also corrects all her deviations from the truth before the story ends, whereas Amy remains unreliable till the end. Since Rachel is reliable in the end, I claim she is a better example of a typical first-person narrator with a limited point of view than an unreliable narrator. I suggest that narrators, especially first-person narrators, should not be categorized as unreliable only because they have a limited point of view. We should make the final judgement about a narrator’s reliability by detecting the distance between the implied author’s views and the narrator’s views at the end of the story. If by then the narrator has corrected their mistakes and possible misbeliefs, I claim they are not unreliable narrators. This thesis exemplifies the complexity of unreliable narration and challenges the way we sometimes too straightforwardly categorize narrators as unreliable narrators, considering there do not seem to be completely reliable narrators. I propose that further studies on the relation between subjectivity and unreliability could be beneficial for understanding the sensemaking process when reading character narrators.