Academic journal article The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Focalization and Narrator in James Joyce's Counterparts

Academic journal article The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Focalization and Narrator in James Joyce's Counterparts

Article excerpt


This paper analyses James Joyce's short story Counterparts from the perspective of the narrator and the concept of focalization. The paper begins by giving a brief theoretical exposition of the two terms 'narrator' and 'focalization' and proceeds to examine the text in its natural narrative sequence. Joyce's skilful manipulation of focalization as a narrative tool takes the reader on a journey through the protagonist's private thoughts and feelings as the events in the story unfold. The focalization keeps on shifting as the action advances in its temporal and spatial parameters. The reader gets a glimpse into the consciousness of the main character as encapsulated in the narrative leading to multiple cognitive interpretations.

Keywords. Narrator, Narrative, Diegesis, Focalization, Joyce, Counterparts


Narratology has always been a fascinating area of research in both literary and linguistic inquiry (Propp 1928, Greimas 1966, Genette 1972, Labov, 1972, Barthes 1975, Toolan 2001, Rimmon-Kenan 2005, Bal 2009). Within applied linguistics, the narrative technique distinguishes between the actual action of the tale and its discourse aspects.

Focalization is an important aspect within the discourse of a narrative. Within narrative theory, it is a tool to determine 'who sees' and 'who speaks' (Genette, 1980:186). The mental processes of the character/s, the narrator, and the author lend a varied perspective to the narrative. It provides '...crucial insights into the representation of consciousness in fiction' (Horstkotte & Pedri, 2011:330).

Joyce's Counterparts is an interesting tale that narrates one day's events in the protagonist's life. He is badly treated by his boss and in end he is juxtaposed against his own treatment towards his little son. This study is an attempt to examine the pattern of focalization in the tale to establish the manner in which Joyce represents the protagonist's consciousness.

The paper begins by establishing the theoretical constructs of narrative, narrator, and focalization. The analysis of the tale follows in the light of the discussion.

Narrative and Narrator

We define narrative as one method of recapitulating past experiences by matching a verbal sequence of clauses to the sequence of events which (it is inferred) actually occurred. (Labov, 1972:360)

Narrative has been variously defined as '...verbal productions recounting one or more events...', '...any kind of representations of events...', '...Some maintain that they must involve causality, that they must be populated with individual beings and things, that they must be anchored in human experience, that they must constitute a whole'( Prince, 2008:19).

Rimmon-Kenan (2005:3) defines narrative as '...a succession of fictional events'; its basic aspects are described as 'the events' [story]; their 'verbal representation' [text] and the act of telling or writing [narration]. The text undertakes the telling of events, not necessarily in a chronological order and '...all the items of the narrative content are filtered through some prism or perspective (focalizer)'.The text as a written or a spoken discourse '...implies someone who speaks or writes it...Within the text, communication involves a fictional narrator transmitting a narrator to a narrate'(2005:2-3). The figure who tells the story may be fictional or factual, may speak in their own voice or may assume a character's voice; may interfere and interrupt the narrative or may stay implicit; may have the knowledge and control of everything or may be a nanve character. The creator of a narrative can choose from a range of such narrators. 'The narrative level to which the narrator belongs, the extent of his participation in the story, the degree of perceptibility of his role and finally his reliability are crucial factors in the reader's understanding of and attitude to the story' (Rimmon-Kenan, 2005:97).

The narrator who stays above the level of a story is 'extra diegetic' and the ones at lower level are called 'intradiegetic', 'hypodiegetic' and 'hypo-hypodiegetic' (Rimmon-Kenan, 2005:97). …

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