We’ve put up quite a few posts looking at VOICES IN TEXTS. Now we want to look at the other aspect of the VOICE course concept as identified in the SCSA glossary: NARRATIVE AND AUTHORIAL VOICE.
The NARRATIVE voice is the voice of the NARRATOR and/or CHARACTER in a text. It may be written from a 1ST PERSON, 2nd PERSON or 3RD PERSON point of view.
AUTHORIAL voice refers to the voice of the author and is a part of that author's writing style.
In the COMPREHENDING SECTION of your exam, you could be asked to identify and/or discuss the VOICE in an unseen text. Students find this quite tricky, but there are KEY THINGS to look for:
- 1st, 2nd or 3rd person POV (We did a post on the significance of this earlier - it’s worth reading if you missed it! 😊)
- Male / female
- Approximate age
- Accent / dialect (and therefore perhaps ethnicity)
- Attitudes or values identifiable from dialogue, actions and/or thoughts
We’ve included some excerpts here with brief notes on each. Hopefully you can see how the tips above can help you identify the VOICE in an unseen text. 😊
First person POV is used in the excerpt above so a subjective and personal VOICE. The narrator talks about his brother being buried and worries about ‘how he would breathe’ and if he should ‘put some fruit in the grave’ in case he gets hungry.
The VOICE is obviously that of a young child since they don’t seem to understand death. We could guess between the ages of 5-10. Gender is not obvious and there is no detectable accent or dialect.
The NARRATIVE VOICE conveys a sense of loneliness (attitude). ‘Nobody really talked’ (repetition) and the narrator tells us the teachers and kids at school stayed away. We could also say the VOICE is one of innocence (attitude). We’ve already identified that the narrator doesn’t understand about death, but the final sentence - ‘finding him in a drain without his clothes on was worse’ - also conveys this. This small detail has a lot more meaning for us as readers than it does for the child narrator (innocent). We know the narrator’s brother has likely been sexually abused and murdered.
We chose this example (Text 1) to show you how important the CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION provided by the examiners can be! 😊 Students were asked to identify the VOICE in the excerpt and explain how it POSITIONED them to view Berlin.
1st person POV so again the VOICE is very subjective (bias) and personal. The AUTHORIAL VOICE is a female Australian voice conveying her experiences of travelling in Berlin, Germany. All of this is given in the CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION provided.
We can expand on this by making some inferences. An Australian travelling in Germany means the VOICE is that of a foreigner or outsider. Additionally, the VOICE is unwell or ill. Anna Funder admits in the first sentence that she is hungover, so not in the best state of mind to be objectively making observations about a foreign city. Her hangover may adversely affect her attitudes towards, and opinions of, Berlin and consequently POSITION READERS to view it in a negative light also.
Katz uses the 1st person POV – subjective/bias, influenced by personal values, attitudes and beliefs. The VOICE is that of a 49yr old male and is COLLOQUIAL (i.e. relaxed, conversational) shown through the use of words such as ‘kid, fella, gramps, little bugger’. Traditional ATTITUDES regarding manners and respect are conveyed by the VOICE who expects the boy to move for him because he is older, dressed snazzy and carrying an expensive cake.
The writer also imagines what the kid is thinking, and in doing so creates a disrespectful, cheeky VOICE for the young boy.
Finally, the VOICE of the article is sarcastic (tone) and classist (attitude) when it says ‘carrying a cheap novelty footy that was probably stitched together by Bangladeshi orphans.’ The VOICE is also humorous (tone) – ‘disrespect was just oozing out of him, mostly from his little snout.’
IS THIS ARTICLE BY KATZ NARRATIVE OR AUTHORIAL VOICE? This is a tricky question to answer because it could be BOTH! Danny Katz may be recalling an experience he has had, in this case, the VOICE would be AUTHORIAL. OR, he might have created this lemon tart carrying 49yr old to explore the generation gap that exists in society. In this case, the VOICE would be NARRATIVE.
At the end of the day, whatever excerpt you are given in your examination/assessment, the examiner will be looking to see if you can identify and discuss the VOICE. It’s also likely they will call it narrative voice, authorial voice or simply voice in the question. So don’t worry too much about this 😊
We chose the example above because it uses the 2nd person POV which is unusual. It could be that the narrator wants to make us part of the story, to put us into the shoes of the character as a way of better understanding the issues. In this case, the ‘you’ (which is us, the reader) can feel under attack from the VOICE, as if we should have known better.
Another possibility is that they used 2nd person POV because the narrator is older and talking to her younger self. Either interpretation can be correct, just be sure to support your interpretation with evidence from the text (i.e. a quote). 😊
NOW, let’s identify the VOICE. The gender and age are not clear. But the TONE is clear. The VOICE seems to be critical of Americans and America itself. The narrator talks about the ‘big hot dog with yellow mustard that nauseated you.’ An iconic symbol of American culture, the hot dog looks great but left you feeling sick on eating it. This perhaps represents that America is not as good as it may seem, particularly for migrants.
The VOICE is also satirical (tone). The narrator mocks America saying ‘they were desperately trying to look diverse. They included a photo of him in every brochure, even those that had nothing to do with his unit.’ The narrator is poking fun at America’s desire to look multicultural, when in fact it is not, so the VOICE is sarcastic.