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Voices Sounding and Resounding Over the Tracks

Author: ZhanYiChao
Tutor: HuangJiYing
School: Northeast Normal University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: reliable/unreliable narrator narrative voice conflict culture
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Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2009
Downloads: 77
Quote: 1
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Abstract


Since W. C. Booth first put forward the term of“unreliable narrator”, it has been considered as one indispensable area in textual analyses. Numerous theorists have made contributions to the study of it. Among them, J. Phelan and M.P. Martin’s paper has been the most exquisite research on this topic in recently years. Up to now they have made the most systematic and useful classification of unreliability. The basis of their thought-provoking classification is that, the narrator practically performs three functions: reporting, evaluating, and reading. Every function or role of the narrator moves along one axis of communication and may give rise to different kinds of unreliability: 1. along the axis of event and fact we get underreporting and misreporting; 2. along the axis of ethics and remarks we get underevaluating and misevaluating; 3. along the axis of knowledge and perception we get underreading and misreading.H. Porter Abbott’s concept of conflicts in narrative is also drawn upon. He argues that conflicts serve important cultural purposes. He proposes one very plausible possibility which is that the representation of conflicts in narrative provides a way for a culture to talk to itself about, and possibly resolve, conflicts that threaten to fracture it (or at least make living difficult). In this view of narrative, its conflicts are not solely about particular characters (or entities), riding on top of the conflict of narrative entities, are conflicts regarding values, ideas, feelings, and ways of seeing the world.Taking the theory of unreliable narrator as the theory base, aided by H. Porter Abbott’s concept of conflicts in narrative, this paper analyzes Louise Erdrich’s novel, Tracks. In this paper, the author’s concern of the dilemma that Indian culture confronts will be discussed and clarified through analyzing the novel’s narrators and narrative voice. First, the endeavor is aimed at explaining how one of the two narrators, Pauline Puyat, is unreliable, and at pointing out the personal and cultural reasons behind. Next the other narrator, Nanapush’s reliability will be explained. Then, the conflicts between them will be demonstrated. Last, through talking about the significance of the absence of Fleur Pillager’s narrative voice( who is the central figure in the novel), it will be shown that the very method highlights the conflicts among the Indians on the reservation, represented by those between the two narrators. In the Conclusion, through analyzing narrators and narrative voice, it can be shown that individually, Pauline is a figure distorted by the overwhelming incursion of the whites; collectively, the superiority of the whites’culture causes conflicts among Native American; and the Ojibwa culture is facing the danger of being fractured. At last, the conclusion is tentatively reached that the author expresses her concern that the whites’incursion into Indian land has brought native Americans conflicts and disasters, and as a result the solution to their problems chiefly rests upon the whites,although they themselves need to make adjustments too.

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