Literary Essay Example: The Unknown Narrator in Green Grass, Running Water

Date:  2021-03-25 18:13:21
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Thomas King is an acknowledged Canadian writer. Green Grass is a novel that has been found to develop a complex sense of what a cross-border writer should be like. In Green Grass, there is a narrator and a trickster Coyote based on the myth of the world's creation created on both Canadian Blackfoot and some realistic invention. The novel gained attention due to the unique use of narrative structure and the fusion of written as well as oral beliefs and traditions. The novel is particularly rife with satire and humor. This paper explores the unknown narrator that the novel Green Grass makes use of.

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Plot Summary

The author begins with an explanation from an unknown narrator concerning the beginning of time. Here, the trickster god is present alongside the unknown narrator. Four women are giving their story from the beginning from different points of view. The unknown narrator then goes ahead to explain these events to the coyote god. The unknown narrator also explains the wonder that the dog has in seeing that there is water surrounding them everywhere they are standing. Through this, the author makes use of authorial intrusion within the narrative style. This is because the author presents himself as an unknown narrator as he gives the story from his point of view.

Use of the Unknown Narrator

The use of an unknown narrator gives the author a lot of discretion with regards to the storytelling. The unknown narrator, for example, empowers the author to give some of his own input about the attitudes he has towards some things. The simple fact that the author seems to have some doubts about the reality of dreams and their inapplicability in the real world is expressed through his contempt expressed by the Coyote god. The author expresses the true perceived nature of the coyote as the healer that he is, but also of a semiotic element that is present to resist colonial powers. This is why the coyote god seems to reject the appearance of the dream (King 15).

Authorial intrusion is also used in the case of the unknown narrator to give the audience some idea about the unknown forces that operate in the human lives. Considering the presence of a coyote god and his surprise towards the actualization of his dream, this would go on to speak symbolically about the surprise that people have when things that are out of their control happen. Normally, people would see such things and become very helpless, and at times amused, that such things are happening. Consider Alberta's desire to be the only person in the text quoted below. However, this was not the case as she was inevitably found with others in a quagmire:

Alberta liked to drive. She liked to drive her own car, and she liked to drive alone. She didn't like the idea of a trip, but once she was on her way, once the lights of the city were behind her and the roar narrowed into the night, a feeling of calm always came over her, and the world outside the car disappearedMarriage was like that. (King 90)

In a real-life situation, one could consider the 2009 depression which left many without employment and a source of income. People lost their homes, properties, vehicles among other things. Nonetheless, this was continually foretold from the early 1990s with deteriorating financial practices in the world. The result was seen nearly two decades later and the effect on people was like that of dream. Most people could only look on with surprise and wonder as things happened to them. Unknown forces were in operation in their lives. Similarly, this highlights the coyote's role as a healer, but also as a diabolical force of destruction (King 15).

The fact that the unknown narrator is identified as the first person says a lot about the nature of the narration. Audience engagement seems to be an objective of the author in this case. Being addressed as I, the reader would often consider the story as being told personally to them. Consider that the story is divided into four parts, and each part addresses a person's side of the story and it is all directed to the unknown narrator I (King 3). This would go on to show the reader at a subconscious level that the story is referring to them, and that they are leading it through the mouth of another person. This means that the reader can engage all the four escaped Aboriginal men from the unknown narrator by being in his shoes. Furthermore, the reader gets the feeling that they are telling the story to another, the coyote, and therefore complicates and intrigues the story.

Through this complicated structure of story-telling, the author achieves the objective of reader engagement since the reader is now appearing to be the go-between through which the four Aboriginal men speak and pass the message to the Coyote god. Reader engagement can also stem from the fact that the entire story is built on the simple symbolism representing racial minorities in Canada and their representation before the government. As a result, the reader finds themselves in a mediating role between the two parties. Further, the unknown narrator allows the reader to engage with all four stories as a listening ear and speaking mouth as opposed to just plain reading.

Additionally, the unknown narrator poses yet another attribute that I unique to the narration offered by the author. By virtue of the being the unknown narrator, the story seems to be coming from four different directions effectively (Ryan 517). Seeing how the women in this case are all different at the point of their story-telling, it is necessary to obtain all four versions without seeming to lean on the story of one of the women. The unknown narrator is efficient in doing this since all four stories can be considered at the same time. The First Woman, the Old Woman, The Changing Woman and the Thought Woman all get a chance to express their different points of view. Additionally, they all seem to have unique encounters with bible characters and their equivalent modern-day characters to engage a change of name. These encounters are all communicated to the unknown narrator and capture the essence of the narration without seeming to lean on any side.

The author seems to be using the recent trend of the unknown character to achieve his objectives in this story. Similar to other forms of literature in which dystopia is common, the author equally refers to himself without name. The niche of having characters without names can be compared among various authors as they aim to get their message out with minimal referral to the specificity of the character in question, namely by removing their names. Nonetheless, this is a prominent feature in attaining the true gist of an allegory in a story. Research has shown that the namelessness being used for characters exemplifies projections and identifications rather than actual character names. Considering the example of Sleeping Beauty, ones mind immediately jumps to the idea of a beautiful girl who is sleeping. This expectation is straightway met when the story describes a girl who was enchanted into a sleep that could only be disengaged by true loves kiss. The author, therefore, successfully imprinted the reader in the story using the description I. Every time the reader sees the unknown narrator speak, they can easily see themselves being spoken to while reading the story. Furthermore, every time the narrator speaks to the coyote god, the reader might as well be communicating their needs to the trickster.

Yet another instrument that the unknown narrator makes use of in the story is the setting that is outside of time (Sachs). The author is engaging the reader in a realm where people can change sexes, coyotes can speak and unnamed characters are acting as intermediaries. Additionally, the unknown narrator is getting stories from four different women about the same time, yet from different perspectives. This creates a fictional environment, where one can easily say that time is non-existent. The use of the unknown narrator effectively cuts out the aspect of time from the story. Consider Philip Claudel's The Investigator. In this story, the main character is the investigator. This depicts an unknown character whose name is his description rather than an actual name. In different stories, authors will invoke this to give the audience a feeling that they are in folklore rather than a realistic story. With the presence of the women characters in the story such as the Changing woman, the First Woman and the Old Woman among others, this mystery gives the reader the feeling of reading folklore effectively taking away the time aspect. More so, the author uses the pronoun I to get the story of all four women from different historical times based on their descriptions. Again, this gives the audience a feeling of transcendence over time in their attempt to get the correct story from all four women.

In final consideration of the object of the unknown author, maintaining a state of quantum is necessary where authorial intrusion is achieved through the use of an unknown narrator. This style is quite common among writers with various other works using the same model to achieve some form of balanced authorial intrusion. Every Day is for the Thief, for example, sees the author engage the audience as an unknown narrator who seems to be aloof from the entire story. In 10.04, again the author seems to be telling the story albeit from a point of view that is objective and non-intrusive to the storytelling that is happening. Similarly, one can find that the author in the case of Green Grass is dealing with a delicate issue in Canadian politics, yet needs to be aloof from the participation of political agendas within his writing. As a result, the unknown narrator becomes the most suitable vehicle for disseminating his story without seeming to have some subjective view towards it. Moreover, the author ensures that he can use to pronoun I in his story so that any inferences and conclusions that are drawn can be seen to be coming from the readers perspective. As discussed earlier, the author intended to engage the reader. Possibly, this could also be done to engage critical thinking and analysis from the reader and identification of the issues that the author intends to put out (Xin-yan). The unknown author seeks anonymity in the dissemination of issues, allowing the reader to get into the shoes of the listener and judge for themselves why they think that it is important to decide the issues in a particular way.

The quantum also enables the author to stay within the confines of a fictional story as well as engage the reader to identify the story as a memoir of actual events. If the question of who the narrator is becomes open-ended, one can infer as to the nature of the work at any part of the reading. In Green Grass, for example, some parts can be interpreted as fable while others can be seen as actual events requiring attention. The life events of the four women exemplify the place of reality within the stories, while the creation stories all seem to symbolically infer to different things. However, other parts like the materialization of dreams seem far from reality and are best left for mythical parts of the story.

In conclusion then, it becomes necessary to consider all the aspects of the use of the unknown narrator with utmost critical approaches. The method has been used to create various impressions for both author and reader. For the author, there was need to engage the audience, maintain some balance in the dissemination and interpretation of issues as well as give room for independent analyses by the reader. The reader, on the other hand, needs the unknown narrator aspect as a form of invitation to consider pertinent issues raised by the author as well as adjudge native peoples issues, especially in Canada....

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