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NARRATIVE / AUTHORIAL VOICE

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
  • Tone

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. 😊

EXCERPT FROM ‘WHAT THE DARKNESS SAID’ BY CHRIS WOMERSLEY (short story)

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.

EXCERPT FROM ‘STASILAND’ BY ANNA FUNDER (article from an old WACE exam)

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.

EXCERPT FROM ‘TROUBLE AFOOT’ BY DANNY KATZ (article, article from an old WACE exam)

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 😊

EXCERPT FROM ‘THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK’ BY CHIMAMANDA ADICHIE (short story, author is Nigerian)

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.

Responding

VOICES IN NOVELS / EXPOSITORY TEXTS

Most Yr12 students will study a fiction or non-fiction text this year, so think about the VOICES represented in the text you have studied and the different PERSPECTIVES it offers.  Here’s a few examples 

👩‍🎓 “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” – Mark Haddon gives children with Aspergers and their families a VOICE and presents their PERSPECTIVE of living with this disorder.

👨‍🎓 “Destroying Avalon” – Kate McCaffrey gives teenage victims of bullying (both cyber and physical) a VOICE in this novel and presents their PERSPECTIVE of what it’s like to be in this situation.

👩‍🎓 “Broken Lives” – Estelle Blackburn gives John Button a voice and protests his innocence, presenting his perspective on the evidence and life in prison. She also presents the perspective of the Eric Edgar Cooke and his crime rampage on the streets of Perth in the 1960s.

👨‍🎓 “The Book Thief” – Markus Zusak takes the unique approach of giving Death a VOICE, making him the narrator in the novel. We see Death’s PERSPECTIVE on death, loss, suffering and humanity). He also gives a VOICE to the German people who disagreed with what the Nazis were doing and presents their PERSPECTIVE on this period of time and the treatment of Jews.

👩‍🎓 “Things Fall Apart” – Chinua Achebe gives the Igbo people a VOICE and presents their PERSPECTIVE on an African society that challenges narrow Western representations of the continent.

👨‍🎓 “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Margaret Atwood gives women a VOICE and explores feminism from several different PERSPECTIVES.

👩‍🎓 "Snow Falling on Cedars" – David Guterson gives Japanese Americans a VOICE and presents their PERSPECTIVE of living in a post-WWII America.

👨‍🎓 “The Kite Runner” – Khalid Hosseini gives Afghan people a VOICE and presents their PERSPECTIVE of life in Afghanistan before and after the Russian invasion, under Taliban rule and life as an immigrant/refugee in America.

👩‍🎓 “Hiroshima” – John Hersey gives VOICES to six survivors of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in this journalistic novel, presenting each person’s PERSPECTIVE of the bombing and the impact it had on their lives.

And that wraps up our focus on VOICE and PERSPECTIVE 

Hopefully we’ve provided enough examples to give you the idea and understand the concepts a little better.

And maybe, if you have to do your own investigations, we’ve given your some great ideas for texts that you can choose from too 

Responding

VOICES IN DOCUMENTARY

This is a popular medium for giving groups or individuals a VOICE, and consequently, presenting a variety of PERSPECTIVES.  Here’s just a few examples:

  • We looked at Michael Moore’s documentaries a few weeks ago – “Bowling for Columbine” and “Sicko” – which give Americans a VOICE to express their discontent at their outrageous levels of gun violence and broken healthcare system.

 

  • “Murderball” gives a VOICE to disabled athletes and presents the PERSPECTIVE of wheelchair rugby players.

 

  • “Bra Boys” gives a VOICE to the Maroubra surfing gang in Sydney, allowing them to present their PERSPECTIVE on surfing, their territory, multiculturalism and the violence often associated with them.

 

  • Louis Theroux ‘s documentaries always make for interesting viewing! He gives a VOICE to minority groups (Neo-Nazis, gangsters, America’s most hated family, swingers, alien killers, doomsday preppers) whose CONTROVERSIAL PERSPECTIVES often challenge the values and beliefs of mainstream society.

 

  • “Black Fish” gives a VOICE to the cruel treatment of Tilicum (and other orca whales in captivity) at the hands of the multi-billion-dollar sea-park industry.

 

  • Mabo: Life of an Island Man gives a VOICE to Eddie Mabo and presents his PERSPECTIVE about family, home and his fight for an entire nation and its legal system.

 

And so on and so forth…

Responding

VOICES IN FILM

When we go to the movies, we hope to be entertained by a jolly good story.

But there are many films out there that, in telling their story, they also give an individual or group a VOICE. Therefore, they don’t only entertain, but they serve a PURPOSE – to present someone else’s PERSPECTIVE.

🎬 "Rabbit Proof Fence" gives a VOICE to the Aboriginal children who were removed from their families by the government and presents their PERSPECTIVE.

 

🎞️ "Perks of Being a Wallflower" gives a VOICE to teens struggling with depression, presenting their PERSPECTIVE on what it’s like to live with the mental illness.

 

🎥 "Schindler’s List" tells the story of a courageous German businessman living in Nazi Germany who tried to save as many Jews as he could during the Holocaust. An extraordinary man, Spielberg’s film gave him a VOICE to tell his story, to present his PERSPECTIVE.

 

🎬 "Hidden Figures" gives a VOICE to the African-American female mathematicians behind the space missions during the Space Race. The film presents their PERSPECTIVE of what it was like to be a part of NASA at this time.

 

🎞️ "Bend it Like Beckham" gives a VOICE to Indian girls, presenting their PERSPECTIVE on breaking down stereotypes and balancing life in two different cultures (Indian and British)

 

🎥 "Milk" gave a VOICE to gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk and his PERSPECTIVE on the limited rights of gay people in the late 1970s.

Again, we could go on forever! You get the idea 

Comprehending, Responding

🎤 VOICE IN POETRY, SONG AND RAP 🎤

To quote Jack Black from the movie School of Rock – “One great rock song, can change the world!” 🎸
 
Poets and songwriters often use their lyrics to convey the views, positions, ideas and perspectives of other individuals or groups – i.e. TO GIVE THEM A VOICE.
  • WILFRED OWEN gave a VOICE to the young soldiers of WWI in his poems – “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, “Disabled”.
  • “Strange Fruit”, a poem written by ABEL MEEROPOL, gave a VOICE to African Americans and exposed racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans. BILLIE HOLIDAY later recorded the poem as a song.
  • BOB DYLAN gave a VOICE to Rueben ‘The Hurricane’ Carter in his song “The Hurricane” where he protested the boxer’s innocence.

  • In his rap “The Storm”, EMINEM gave a VOICE to anti-Trump supporters as he lashes out at the American president.
  • Aussie band MIDNIGHT OIL gave a VOICE to the workers at the Wittenoom asbestos mines (who contracted various asbestos-related diseases) in the song “Blue Sky Mine.”   
  • In “Beds Are Burning”, MIDNIGHT OIL gave a VOICE to the Pintupi, who were among the very last people to come in from the desert, and encourage the return of native Australian lands.
  • And finally, "The Saints Are Coming".  GREEN DAY and U2 collaborated on this song to give a VOICE to the people of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The song protests the inaction of the US government following this disaster.
We could go on forever!
 
Poetry, song and rap allow us to have a VOICE – whether we choose to speak for ourselves, or for someone else, is entirely up to us. It can be fulfilling and life-changing!