Who is an unreliable narrator

An unreliable narrator is a narrator who is not trustworthy and lacks credibility. They are characters whose explanation must be taken as throwing dust in people’s eyes.

But why are there unreliable narrators?

There are unreliable narrators because such is life and they all come together to give a blend of experiences.

Can you ever find a reliable narrator?

The answer is No. This is because no one is that perfect and there aren’t any 100% completely reliable narrators nor characters. However, people have different opinions and there are situations where people can give contradictory interpretations about certain events. So if each person is capable of describing something that happened in a different way, how do we then  know who is right? Writers tend to use  the Rashomon Effect to narrate incidents  from multiple perspectives in leaving readers to decipher  whose record is most believable.

What are some functions of an unreliable narrator?

  • Unreliable narrators , in writing, have a role of keeping the suspense in a particular piece. They are capable of creating tension and hooking audiences to continue exploring.
  • They are capable of allowing readers to come to their own conclusions thus, sparking up the sensation of a particular piece.
  • Unreliable narrators can be complex and can make a particular piece very interesting or really scary. They cause a blend and make things look real.
  • Most unreliable narrators are first-person: they live in the story and will have some sort of domination towards what is happening. You may find some unreliable narrators who’s written in the second-person or third-person point of view but it is very rare.

 

Photo by Jessica Delp on Unsplash

TYPES OF UNRELIABLE NARRATORS

Below is a brief compilation of some types of unreliable narrators;

Consciously Unreliable Narrators

These narrators intentionally trick their audience to achieve a particular goal best known to them. They are usually aware of their trickery or intent to do what they do.

Usually, the sole purpose of what they do is to keep their readers glued to their work or get their attention to a particular gist. People read about characters they can relate to.

This type of narrator’s duty connects well with the intended audience that even when they realize they are being misled along the way, they will want to wait to see what finally happens.

How do they Consciously do that?

They keep certain vital information from the reader and analyze to see how it impacts the scene. This is usually done to flip scenarios and make twists.

They are usually unreliable from the start. They do that to make sure that they don’t compromise the whole story or assure that their unreliability is not noticed by readers.

Since they know what they are doing they are so creative about it. They induce a degree of unreliability to experiment and determine how interesting the story will be. E.g. in Superhero Scenes, misinformation is at times given because that could be what the protagonist or antagonist believes in.

Unconsciously Unreliable Narrators

These are narrators who unconsciously alter the truth. They are capable of manipulating and twisting facts in write-ups. Their write-ups are often hard to understand until readers follow up until the end. Their mindsets aren’t clear, they show eagerness in getting their audience credible information but sometimes twist things without even realizing it.

Naively Unreliable Narrators

These narrators are unreliable due to lack of information about a particular topic. They can be termed as honest but lack in-depth knowledge about what’s going on. They then tend to provide only partial explanations to the audience and when needed, readers will have to keep calm through the writeup to get the full meaning of what is going on.

How to detect an unreliable narrator

There are some signs that constitute or give a hint at a narrator’s unreliability. Some of them simply tend to lose their guard and hence leave footprints of unreliability. Some of which have been briefly explained below:

  • If the narrator contradicts himself or lie to other characters continuously,  this can give a clear indication of a narrator who is unreliable
  • Some narrators also go as far as contradicting readers’ general knowledge or logical reasoning. This quickly hints on unreliability and gets readers wondering.
Clifford Opoku-Antwi

Clifford Opoku-Antwi

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