Narrator vs Writer

Narrative levels
narrator versus writer



Narrative capability is one of the most distinguished gift given to human beings which dwell on each individual in various levels of experience and types of discourses.  Theorists put forward a large number of narratives to discuss. What makes the narrative perception so profound issue stems from it having a pivotal role in shaping our world.  I will try to explain the implications of “the narrative jamming” upon the narrator and the reader which distorts the verisimilitude of the accounts of the narrator and writer running parallel.  This premise will be underpinned by a narrative analysis of Ian McEwan’s “Atonement”.

Jean-Paul Sartre, in his famous work “Existentialism is a Humanism” asserts that “Man makes himself” by underlining the morality that is chosen by mankind. I will adopt this view to “narrator makes his writer”  He also claims that “ you are what you live”  I will also call it “you are what you write”. In this regard, although these statements seem inextricably interwoven, sometimes you are not able to be what you write. But in which cases does this happen? Is this a direct consequence of the narrative jamming we experience every day consciously or unconsciously? Roland Barthes explains this natural affinity as follows;

“Narratıve starts wıth the very hıstory of mankınd; there ıs not, there has never been anywhere, any people wıthout narrative; all classes, all human groups, have theır storıes and very often those storıes are enjoyed by men of dıfferent and even opposıte cultural backgrounds: narratıve remaıns largely unconcerned wıth good or bad lıterature. lıke lıfe ıtself, ıt ıs there, ınternatıonal, transhıstorıcal, transcultural.”

This quotation inspired many researchers on their works as a starting point to the depths of the narrative discourse however, I will be hesitant and barely inclined to agree that it is “like life itself” as long as and only if mankind themselves narrates this premise. The reason that causes me to have serious reservations about this point is the same as the notion that led me to recognize the dual role of the narrative within the entire span of the history of mankind. The narrative is the key player in our life with its dual role as a means of communication with the present and as a device of imitation of the past which also paves the way for the prediction and creates the power of determining or constructing the future. All these come to happen through the triangular interaction which is composed of the narration, the narrator, and the reader. Thus, as the quotation suggests above, narrative can not be confined to a group of writers or some leading intellectuals of a certain elite. It encompasses the whole of society and spans nearly a complete life from the onset of childhood to adulthood for each individual. Some believe even the period of infancy can be conceived within this process.

Let’s have a look at the incident In Ian McEwan’s Atonement, in which Briony Tallis’s pretense of being drowned takes place in the river is corroborative evidence to this notion. This example directly brings us to the focal point of the ongoing dispute on the reliability of the narrator by extension usually the author himself. Many questions arise at the very heart of this argument. To what extent can the narratives be versions of reality?  Whose voice is it we hear of? Does the narrator narrate everything? Can the Subjective identity be reconstructed? what is the role of the narratee amid these debates? All these arguments stem from the uncertainty of the posture that the narrator adopted towards the narrated and the narratee at the exact time of narrating.  Here, the narrative time interferes with the core of the problem as another indelible component. In order to grasp the argument let’s remember Briony Tallis as an author who just reached the age of 77 in 1999 and finished her last novel, its origin derived from her childhood and its earliest version from January 1940.  As it is clearly seen, It nearly spans a complete life. But the point is the resulting implication being that “ it will also inevitably span the whole narrative time” from the very beginning of the narration to the final sentence which will mark the end of the narration. However, we do not know precisely how long it took for Ian Mcewan to finish his novel, but by his novel Atonement, he is projecting the very epitome of this process. This instance is mapping the whole history of the narrative but in a way in which many questions arise from the time gaps between the different acts of narrating all along the different acts of writing time.  Is it plausible for the narrator to remain the same person while the author is still getting older?  How can an author adapt himself to the continuum mechanics in the diegesis3 of the narrator?   If the narrator is not the one who writes and the writer is not the one who narrates according to the structuralists whose narration is it we read? These are absolutely absorbing questions as relatively much as controversial. These arguments scattered over the subsequent chapters with their relevant subpoints will be debated in direct references to Atonement.

Roland Barthes claims that the conceptions that seem to have been formulated so far which determine the point of view are inadequate to the question “Who is the giver of the narrative?”  He points out that the bulk of the problem is embedded in the codes in which the narrator’s and the reader’s presence can be detected within the narrative itself in “two different systems: personal and impersonal.  He adds that although this approach may come in handy its efficacy is limited. He underlines the insufficiency of the linguistic marks hence it may be sometimes a faking practice and can mislead us in a text written in the third person, in fact, which is in the first person.

He is totally right in his stance because, on many occasions, eliminating the presence of the person who is speaking apparently remains controversial in itself especially in paratextual narrations as it was in the case of Atonement. This fact will lead us to seek the answers not along the tortuous fields of narratology but absorbing. On Atonement. Ian McEwan in his work truly provides for such an attempt at an extensive field of study in narration hence it has this built-in paratextual structure.




“Long ago when anımals and human beıngs were the same, there were four brothers who went about doıng good. Comıng to the Squamısh Indıans one tiıe, they were persuaded by the chıef to stay a whıle ın hıs vıllage. Knowıng the wonder-workıng powers of the brothers, the chıef saıd to them, “Won’t you brıng the salmon people to our shores? We are often short of food. We know that salmon ıs good, but they never come to our waters.”….”

There are various forms of narrative in the history of mankind. The quotation above from an American Indian legend is a testament to the ubiquity of the narrative to how it came to be known long before the theories of the narrative were brought by Russian formalists and French structuralists such as Vladimir Propp (1968), Claude Levi-Strauss (1977), Roland Barthes (1977), Gerard Genette (1985) and post-structuralists such as Umberto Eco(1979) and Jean Francois Lyotard (1979).

Due largely to the extensive and influential fields of narrative in daily life, it is hard to make a definition in concrete terms for narrative. Furthermore, we need much of its definition for a deep understanding. Narration is a part of the world we all personally understand and each of us virtually rebuilds in response to what we perceive, remember, and predict. In other words, narration is a version of reality. Tales, novels, films, essays, cartoons, and stories all are written at a specific narrative level by a narrator according to different purposes.  Narrative is also a human tendency and desire. This intrinsic attempt may be rooted in the curiosity of man for the unknown. Curiosity and cognitive endeavor are promoted by the linguistic intuition of each language and cultural legacies. Narratives can also be classified beyond the written and oral narratives known popularly but the core of the narrative remains unchanged whatever we integrate or subtract from the narrative we have certain principles for constructing a narrative applicable to its all forms. We can see narrative in visual gestures, and physical activities and we can read it in talks as a part of daily causal conversations, ceremonies, movies, and even in the classroom. Another form of narrative activity can be read in musical arts such as jazz, piano, classical music, folksongs, rock and roll ..etc. Pictorial arts can also be read as a form of narrative such as family photographs, diagrams, models, drawings, and oil paintings. They can be surprisingly quite effective and convenient in conveying the  mystic, complicated, and historical tales as a primitive form of narrative such as the cave painting given below;

First narrative
Pictorial arts as narrative: The Magura cave is in the Northwest of Bulgaria, some 180km from the capital of Sofia. Pearls of the cave are the unique paintings on stone, done in bat guano.

This cave painting survived from prehistoric times 15.000 years ago tells us the dancing women, hunting men, disguised members of the commune, a large variety of animals, suns, stars, instruments of labor, and plants.

We have an occasional celebration whose characters participate in it, furthermore, we have a painter who narrates the past according to a specific point of view. Let’s remember our Squamish legend. We have had again characters and a particular event.

The narrative similarity between the Squamish legend and the Magura cave painting is that both are purposely functional and designed for the medium of past experiences. But however, when we took an insight into both and looked into them closer, some structural differences came into view. For example;  The Squamish legend tells us the plot in temporal time sequences whereas the Cave painting indicates a stable moment captured from a particular occasion. The narrator of the Squamish legend is omniscient third person and the author of the legend is unknown as long as we do not recognize the storyteller as a transitory author. As to the Cave painting, the narrator is the painter.

The reason why I chose these two instances of narrative before Ian Mcewan’s Atonement is to help clarify the problems and complications of the popular approaches which are well recognized by the overwhelming majority of literary critics. These approaches center on the premises in which the author and narrator diverge from each other on a narrative level by being labeled as someone who writes the story and the other who reads the story to the reader. This view  especially became popular and reinforced by the proclamation Roland Barthes made in his essay “The Death of The Author” as follows

“ No doubt It has always been that way. As soon as a fact Is narrated no longer wIth a vIew to actIng dIrectly on realIty but IntransItIvely, that Is to say, fInally outsIde of any functIon other than that of the very practIce of the symbol Itself, thIs dIsconnectIon occurs, the voIce loses Its orIgIn, the author enters Into hIs own death, wrItIng begIns”

Roland Barthes apparently made an assertion but was and is still being regarded as a proclamation rather than a simple assertion from the immediate publication of his essay onwards. Since then, the relationship between the author and narrator has been underestimated or hasn’t been studied enough by scholars. Now let’s return to the cave painting and imagine how it is constructed by its painter until the final composition and become a painter simultaneously of our own canvas. first, we draw a layout then draw an open moor and proceed with animals. We decided to make some supplementary changes and add a gloomy sky and stars. Hunters and dancing women come next and go on this way. If we figure out this process in our own accord, each of us will experience different phases of stagnation. These stagnations, willingly or compulsory, will determine what the paintbrush will cover next on our canvas. In other terms, We will have to make a nexus of the objects and feelings according to what we read in the current composition on hand. We will look at the incomplete work, we will make a choice between the possible options and we will have to provide a coherence between the thoughts we have and the course of the events what the work indicated. Most importantly in the end we will have been affected by this incomplete work by making a compromise between the world we built and the world on which we work.  This seemingly means that we will have to become the narratee “reader” from the first brush applied to the end. This is the first intervention that occurs in the act of narrating and I am suggesting this momentous intervention is not being made directly by the narrator or the writer itself but being made at a higher level than the narrating and writing levels because it encompasses two points of views which are of the reader and author. We become the first reader of our work with each intervention and each time the course of the events changes from the angle of the reader-author. In this regard, neither the narrator nor the writer is the writer or the narrator in classical terms of what we recognize as the writer or the narrator until the completion of the work.  This resulted in a tussle between the narrator and the writer throughout the work as follows in Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

“ But now I can no longer thInk what purpose would be served If, say, I trIed to persuade my reader, by dIrect or IndIrect means, that RobbIe Turner dIed of septIcernIa at Bray dunes on 1 June 1940, or that CecIlIa was kIlled In September of the same year by the bomb that destroyed Balham Underground stattIon”  ( page 350 ) In thIs quatation, the questIon I wIll tackle Is that “

We see in this paragraph the narrator reveals himself but more significantly by including the reader in it as a justification for her stance as a writer. At the moment she confides her anxiety and concern she also reveals a higher level than the narrator and writer by implying how she becomes entangled with such a sense of indecisive steps on her tortuous path. These moments can be usually seen at each beginning and each end of the work which are the moments where the intensity of the involvement is most distinguished and eloquent because of the fresh attempts and need to change the mood of the distance and focalization of the narrator by the author.  Our fragment was from the end of Atonement when the narrator introduces himself surprisingly as a writer of the work to the reader with some sheer resentment to the reader and the publishers as if she is trying to shirk her responsibilities or forget her lifetime failure on belated work. She directly tends to join the reader not to the main plot of the story but in an implied manner connects the reader to the process of writing by revealing the roles and influences of the reader on herself throughout the novel and her own life. Now this time let’s look at the following fragment from the beginning of Atonement;

“In a story, you only had to wIsh, you only had wrIte It down and you could have the world; In a play you had to make do WITH what was avaIlable: no horses, no vIllage streets, no seasIde. No curtaIn. It seemed so obvIous now that IT was late: a story was form a telepathy. By means of InkIng symbols onto a page, she was able to send thoughts and feelIngs from her mInd to her reader’s”

As it seems, our focalizer or narrator freakily changes the distance, and the focalization shifts to a different level. Our hetero-diegetic 3rd person omniscient narrator suddenly turns into 1st person narrator but again omnisciently. The narrator directly addresses the reader and the reader finds himself as a direct addressee by a delicate sense of rhetorical substitution of the pronoun “you” which indicates both the reader and narrator.

It refers to an unreal condition and the balance of the time distance is being distorted but this can not be explained by the foculization because the foculization occurs within the diegesis of the characters, not the reader and narrator although the distance can be changed within the diegesis of the narrator as it becomes in the final coda of Briony added at the end of Atonement.

         “If you only had written It down you could have the world”  It becomes;

         “If we only  wrIte It down we can have the world”

Now a zero condition comes up with the pragmatic signals- the narrator addresses an addressee using the second person pronoun “you” We are forced to draw an inference having face-to-face with the narrator in a strange manner we can not easily define the narrator in the sense we got used considering the previous and subsequent mood on the novel. I will later show the differences between the focalization and this case of shift. But firstly ask the question “Who is speaking to the reader? I will propose a different kind of narrator and communicative level in response to the argument and try to define their characteristics and principles.  I will call this new voice “ trans or inter-narrator” and will term this specific involvement where the internarrator emerges as “the jamming” and its level “prediegetic level”

One can understandably claim that the jamming appears to be some kind of autobiographical fiction. I will respond that this is not the case by reminding them how the distance and the voice of the narrator prevail at the beginning in the narrative level of autobiographies and how the narrator introduces himself to the reader is clear and eloquent. Let’s remember Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield or Great Expectations and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. All revelations manifest themselves in the settling of background and in the course of the unfolding plot definitely not on the narrative level. But this doesn’t mean in these autobiographical fictions there is no trace of the transnarrator. Of course, there are and have to be traces of the transnarrator at the points where the jamming can be detected. However, the differences come up in the way that autobiographical analysis is concerned with the past of the author by drawing analogies between the characters, narrators, and the author’s own life. But in our case, the matter that concerns us is not the past of the author but the present existence and involvement of the author and I will debate these possible complications of the presence of an internarrator by analyzing Atonement as a model of jamming in the distance, focalization and voice of its narration. I will also apply the jamming and the transnarrator to Gerard Gennette’s three narrative levels; intradiegetic, metadiegetic, and extradiegetic.

In response to  Roland Bartnes’s assertion “ the death of the author” which has been held in high esteem for a long time, I suggest that it is time to reverse this mythic commonplace during the postmodernism by the indelible changing attitudes of the writers towards the authorships. The tradition what the writers try to conceal and exclude themselves from the narrative was regarded as a special talent and gift to confuse and startle the reader since the onset of the written narrative but in time after as every tradition prevails enough and completes itself according to the codes of the culture pertains to its own era, this attitude starts to leave its function to another counter attitude. The table below shows the traditional communication of the narrative instance;

Narrative communication
Level of Fiction by Mahir BARUT

In this frame, there are three levels of communication. The first level between the author and reader is the “extratextual” level. The latter two levels is the “intratextual” level which is one between the narrator and addressee and the other between the characters themselves. The question is here whether we can add an additional level by transposing the communicative frame and if possible where the transnarrator should be positioned.  Also, I am sure that “Implied author and reader” had come to mind already pages ago before this question. As a fact of the matter, I deliberately saved this highly controversial argument for chapter two before plumbing the technical terms getting harder. Since the preconceptions of which conceive the implied author as a reader-generated entity  Implied author and implied reader seem to have assessed wrong and excluded from narrative frames without having developed terminologically sufficient, I would prefer to say in fact “without giving a chance, focus and attention inevitable no means of finding a place in such an anticipation”  Now lets have a deeper look at our arguments on narrative analysis of Atonement and see what Ian McEwan presents us in order to test our claims and how the attitude of distancing and concealing the writer itself from the reader is changing into “ the desire of the writer is to come back to its reader, is to resurrect its importance and thus reveals itself to the reader after his/her long enduring absence by stylistics and pragmatics codes left behind herself /himself

1.2. Narrative level

Ian McEwan’s Atonement with its complex storyline will present us with a practical field of study which will encompass all narrative levels. The narrative level is an analytic device that helps us to distinguish the relations between the characters and narrators in a story within the main plot or different embedded stories within another story. The narrative levels Gerard Genette introduced are composed of three different levels. These are “extradiegetic level”,  “intradiegetic or diegetic level”, and “metadiegetic level”. We will also need to understand the concept of “matric” (see Table 3). First is the extradiegetic level; it is the level of the narrative’s telling and by definition, it must be external to at least one diegesis. The second is the intradiegetic or diegetic level; it is the level of characters so it describes how the characters interact with each other and this level must be embedded in an extradiegetic narrative. The third one is the metadiegetic level; it is embedded within the intradiegetic level and is part of diegesis. This level is usually misunderstood and it is the part of the level when a character starts to tell a story as it happens in Atonement. I will analyze three different passages from the novel for each level in order to determine the framework of Atonement on the narrative level. This will help us to see what kind of techniques and strategies were applied in the course of the story by Ian McEwan and to find on which narrative level jamming occurs if there is any involvement of the writer in narration. But, we should learn about the narrative matrix in advance so we will be ready for our analysis of Atonement.

1.3. Matrix

             Matrix is an important frame for us in order to understand the complex narrative instances and narrative shifts such as presented in the storyline of Atonement. let us have a look at this table below and answer the questions;

complex narrative instances
Narrative Matrix

Who is the one who takes photos? Whose photo is taken? Is anybody else who takes the whole picture? How can we differentiate the actuality of the real photographer from its reflections without having present if our photographer is pictured by someone else? These questions become more challenging problems when you begin to read a story within another story and after all, if you realize towards the end of it in fact all you read was a part of another story of someone else.  In such circumstances, the original narrative level –  the last level which is understood by the final revelation – becomes a “matrix narrative” and the story what you have previously read and told by the former narrating character becomes “embedded or hyponarrative” The word “matrix” goes back to ancient times and originated from the latin word “womb” and according to the Oxford Dictionary, it means that “the cultural, social, or political environment in which something develops:” and “ late Middle English (in the sense ‘womb’): from Latin, ‘breeding female’, later ‘womb’, from matermatr- ‘mother’”  A matrix narrative must include a hyponarrative which means an intradiegetic narrator will participate in extradigetic level of the story. This is the hardest and most momentous part for a writer to create these levels in a harmonious relationship between the narrators and characters. Ian McEwan presents us the matrix narrative and hypo-narrative at this beginning of the first paragraph below;

“WHAT A STRANGE time thIs has been. Today, on the mornIng of my seventy-seventh bIrthday, I decided to make one last vIsIt to the ImprerIal War Museum lIbrary In Lambeth. Is  suIted my peculIar state of mInd. The readIng room, house rIght up in the dome of the building, was formerly the chapel of the Royal Bethlemen HospItal – the old Bedlam. Where the unhInged once come to offer theIr prayers, scholars now gather to ressearch the collectIve insanIty of the war ”

We immideately discover who speaks to us so far throughout the story as a 3rd. person heterodiegetic omniscient narrator who knows everything is in fact a delusion and not was it but only a covert form of our latent narrator. Furthermore, we also realize that we know a lot about our new narrator since the three parts what we read were just telling the story of our new narrator. The first what we need to do is to draw the frame of these three parts and the final coda. The paragraph below I cited from the Prologue of “The Name Of The Rose” by Umberto Eco and I will use its frame in order to show the complications in the frame of Atonement by comparing and applying them.

Perhaps, to make more comprehensIble the events In whIch I found myself Involved, I should recall what was happenIng In those last years of the century, as I understood It then, lIvIng through It, and as I remember It now, complemented by other storIes I heard afterward—if my memory still proves capable of connectIng the threads of happenings so many and confused. In the early years of that century Pope Clement V had moved the apostolIc seat to AvIgnon, leavIng Rome prey to the ambItIons of the local overlords: and gradually the holy cIty of ChrIstIaniIy had been transformed Into a cIrcus, or into a brothel, rIven by the struggles among Its leaders; though called a republic, It was not one, and It was assaiIed by armed bands, subjected to violence and looting”

The change is temporal considering the rest of the novel but, let us suppose this is all. We have five “I”, and one “my” which project the vocal quality of a homodiegetic first person overt narrator who has a limited capacity until the lines which start with“ In the early years…”. The rest of the paragraph is told by the third-person heterodiegetic narrator. The homodiegetic narrator who takes part in action starts to tell according to his memories something else who does not take action but narrates everything omnisciently by knowing the reasons for the actions, the correct sequences of the events, and of course as a covert narrator. But I need to remind you once more according to the whole of the prologue the narrator’s level does not change but I deliberately cited from The Name of the Rose in order to show that there are also temporal diegesises independently from the primary levels. In fact, it could start with a character saying directly “Let me tell you a story” or “Okay then, tell me your story” but for a deeper understanding such a tentative and specific example will be more practical in our frame below.

the third person heterodiegetic narrator.
Narrative levels by Mahir BARUT

In the first narrative instance, A; N1 is the extradiegetic level and the narrator is the extradiegetic narrator. It has a homodiegetic voice. S1 is the intradiegetic level which means the world of the characters. When our narrator who is present in action begins to tell a story, S1 intradiegetic level changes into S2 as a metadiegetic level and becomes a hyponarrative in other words “story within the story”. N2 is the first person heterodiegetic narrator who is absent in action and also N2 level becomes a matrix. This frame is pretty simple and can be easily applied to all embedded narrative instances.

On Atonement now, we will face a narrative instance and frame their complexity comparatively risen by a notch. In Atonement, there are three parts and a final coda at the end of the novel so we must carefully determine which paragraphs must be taken and would be exquisitely beneficial to our frame. Besides, we have also different frame options since we have now four different parts of narrative instances on hand. But we have two distinctive parts and I will draw a narrative frame according to these parts. As to paragraphs, I will cite one paragraph from both parts and the first of these paragraphs will be the beginning sentences of the first paragraph of part one. The second paragraph will come from the last closing sentences of the last paragraph and the novel in the final coda. These two paragraphs also have special bonds between them that the discriminating readers immideately will notice how The Trials of Arabella straddles a thin narrative line between the diegesis of the first three parts and the diegesis of the final coda. Here is the first paragraph below from the beginning of the novel.

“THE PLAY- for whIch Briony had desIgned the posters, programs, and tIckets, constructed the sales booth out of a foldIng screen tipped on Its sIde, and lIned the collectIon box In red crepe paper- was wrItten by her In two–day tempest of composItIon, causIng her to mIss aa breakfast and lunch. When the preparatIons were complete, she had nothIng to do but contemplate her finished draft and waIt for the appearance of her cousIns from the dIstant north”

Narrative levels in Atonement by Mahir BARUT

In our frame; N is a covert and omniscient third-person heterodiegetic narrator. There is no metadiegetic level. Everything seems to be causal. Our narrator appears to have the capacity for insight into the minds of the characters. He knows everything and has access to the thoughts of the characters. While everything is going on its way, we surprisingly come across the title “LONDON, 1999”. The first impression on the reader is a possibility of a flashback or a more possible time-lapse. Let us have a look at the closing sentences of the last paragraph in the coda below and see how the reality is different.

“I lIke to thInk that Isn’t weakness or evasIOn, but a fInal act of kIdness, a stand agaInst oblIvIon and despaIr, to let my lovers lIve and to unIte them at the end. I gave them happiness, but I was not so self-serving as to let them forgIVe me. Not quIte, not yet. If I had the power to conjure them at my birthday celebratIon…Robbie and Cecilia, still aliIe, stIll IN love, sIttIng sIde by sIde In the lIbrary, smIlIng at The TrIals of Arabella? It’s not ImpossIble.”

Now we are getting the whole picture in order to be able to draw a complete narrative frame of Atonement. But things will be getting harder this time in comparison with our first narrative instance. Let us define what it is like.

homodiegetic narrator
narrative instance by Mahir BARUT

It seems likely a pretty easy one on the way coming. N is a homodiegetic narrator on the extradiegetic level and also is an overt narrator. We can also say that the capacity of the narrator is rather limited with an indecisive tone. N 2 is the intradiegetic level and this time narrator also exists as a character who directly takes action in the intradiegetic level.  Now according to our narrative principles, we are supposed to merge our two instances frame into one frame as follows;

Narrative instance by Mahir BARUT

We have now a matrix narrative and hyponarrative. N1 is the extradiegetic level on the first-person homodiegetic voice. N2 is the intradiegetic level and our intradiegetic N2 narrator is also a homodiegetic narrator who has taken action in the narrative as a character. However, we should pay attention to the fact that N2 is changing into a heterodiegetic covert narrator in the act of telling the story of Briony in the intradiegetic level on the complete frame so in the intradiegetic level the homodiegetic narrator coexists with the heterodiegetic narrator according to the final frame in normal circumstances. However, as I have just mentioned above, the reality is surprisingly different and the whole frame is a misguided attempt to draw as we do not have normal circumstances on Atonement which can easily apply to the narrative frame in such a way. Normally, we could conclude that Atonement is a metafictional novel which is told by a homodiegetic first person and overt narrator in which has another story embedded which is told by a heterodiegetic third person and covert narrator. But this conclusion will be wrong by definition as the frames have one serious oversight which is forgotten in the schemes of the events.

The oversight which is omitted to mention is the fact that we have never a narrator or a character on the coda who starts the act of telling a story or the act of writing a story. Therein lies the problem. Our homodiegetic narrator can narrate a story becoming a heterodiegetic narrator at the intradiegetic level but in this case, it does not and the complications of this shortcoming bring some questions as a fact of matter. We know that Briony is the writer of the first part – the first three parts- of the novel but we do not have any transitional moment which indicates the metalepsis- narrative change-. So, one can suggest that the narrator of these three parts is in fact not the heterodigetic but is the same homodigetic narrator of the Coda and vice versa; the narrator of the Coda is in fact not the homodigetic but is the same heterodiegetic narrator before the Coda.

It is now time to remember the picture of the narrative matrix. Whose narrative did we read before the Coda if we have a writer and narrator at the intradigetic level who does not tend to start to tell the story to us? More importantly, then who read the first part to us as a heterodiegetic narrator? Let us remember well on any narrative level; intradiegetic, extradiegetic, or metadiegetic all narrators have the privilege to change the narrative voice. This is an essential part of all narrative instances for this reason, the same principle can be hypothetically applied to this case by anyone who examines these two main parts- the parts before the coda and the coda itself-  In order to highlight the problem let us imagine a moment where the narrator of the narrative X and the writer of the narrator of the same narrative X come across with each other within the same narrative level or diegesis. Could you figure out what it would be like? It sounds like traveling in time. If we had a time-traveling machine, we could have gone to see ourselves in a different time independently from where we exist at present in other words, if we have a traveling device in narrative levels, we could see then by whom we are told will be us.  Can it be possible to come across at the same narrative level? You will remember that I mentioned underlining the specific reason for my aim to choose The Name Of The Rose before Atonement. In the narrative of The Name Of The Rose, our narrative instance was an example of Metalepsis in which the narrator shifts a level and tries to communicate with its reader.  However, the narrative voice did not come across with its writer in the same narrative level. In fact, we can explain this paradoxical situation in a more simple frame for example; you can tell a story to your friends about an incident that you have witnessed as an outsider or taking part in it two days ago. You become a narrator of the story that you have just told to your friends. But, this happens only within the diegesis what you will create in other words in your own imaginary world. On the other hand, the incident that you remember can not belong to the same diegesis because as a narrator you were in the extradiegetic level whereas you were present, you were in the intradiegetic level as a character who takes place in it. So it is impossible for you to exist at the narrative level. However, on Atonement now let us have a look at again the frames below what happens in fact this time by discriminating and labelling who where is.

narrator versus writer
narrator versus writer by Mahir BARUT

This frame can be accepted only on condition that the narrator will never take action at the intradiegetic level. The first or third-person pronouns such as “ I, my, he, she..” do not determine the real narrator. The only thing that can determine whether a narrator is homodiegetic or heterodiegetic is the relation of the narrator to the relevant text. It means that if a narrator is present in action, it is homodiegetic; on the contrary, if it is not present in action, it is a heterodiegetic narrator. We should not forget at this point our writer is Ian Mcewan so we exclude him from the narrative frame and also we have only two narrative levels. But when we label the characters according to the coda we will face a different framework.

So we can draw such a frame on the base of this principle as follows according to the revelation on the coda.

homodiegetic narrator
Narrative levels by Mahir BARUT

it seems like everything unusually changed. We have a homodiegetic narrator now. As you remember well, a homodiegetic narrator can tell a story in a heterodiegetic voice and vice versa. But the problem is that on the coda we face author Briony as a homodiegetic narrator in which level? Let us see how we can combine the frame of the coda with the frame of the first part of the novel to arrive at a final frame of the novel. Here is a new frame of the coda this time its characters are labeled below.

homodiegetic narrator of the coda
New levels on Atonement by Mahir BARUT

Now, our paradox is how our homodiegetic narrator of the coda if it is the author of the first part can be a heterodiegetic narrator at the extradiegetic level. The paradox stems from the fact that the author Briony in instance 1 is also the same character in the intradiegetic level of the coda. This means that a character turns into the diegesis of the narrative level in which it is told. It sounds implausible. Normally a character in the same narrative level can change its narrative voice from homodiegetic to heterodiegetic and create a metadiegetic level and hyponarrative as has been in the table below. Follow the principal steps in the changing narrative levels on our frame and compare them with the steps on Atonement.

New levels at narration
Narrative levels Table 4, by Mahir BARUT

Now let us examine very carefully once more instance 1 of the first part and answer the following questions.

  1. Where is the third person heterodiegetic narrator of the first part we read in the novel throughout the first three parts according to this frame?
  2. Can World 2 “embedded world” be placed at an extradiegetic level above World 1? If it can be on Atonement
  3. whose narration did we read in the first part and in the coda?
  4. Is there anyone else who can be involved at an extradiegetic level?
  5. How can the world 2 be above the world 1?
  6. Can it be possible that an extra level exists above the extradiegetic level?




The first answer is palpably “the extradiegetic level” –see instance 1 the first part –  while it is normally supposed to be in the intradiegetic level as it has been in table 4. It is unlikely true, furthermore, both the heterodiegetic narrator and our extra homodiegetic narrator seem indisputably to be on the extradiegetic level. There is a clear violation of the created principles of the diegesis of the narrators and the principles of the narrative communication of the writers. In the narrative configuration, you will remember that I had mentioned a specific narrative situation that I called “narrative jamming or the jamming” and I devised a new kind of narrator what I called “transnarrator”. Now it is time to see whether it will have an applicable function to solve the abnormality in the narrative frame of Atonement according to our new findings. The main problem above was that World 2 which can only be created at the intradiegetic level seems to be created at the extradiegetic level on Atonement.

embedded story
Real author and Transnarrator by Mahir BARUT

As it seemed, we added a “prediegetic level” as a matter of fact, for our transnarrator to place in it, there is a  more distinguishable change comes to view.

It is, of course, the author himself/herself who takes the place directly within the analytic narrative structure. Now let us check all the levels to find out whether there is any violation of the narrative principles. In our checklist, the problematic third-person narrator of the first part which distorts the narrative frame of the novel as it seemed in the extradiegetic level comes first whereas it should have seemed in the intradiegetic level to the classical narrative frame. In our new frame below we see how they are placed.

narrator 1rd narrator 3rd extradiegetic level Briony overt
The Jamming by Mahir BARUT

And it is finally Ian Mcewan himself is present in the narrative structure taking the most crucial role as a transnarrator. The table can be drawn in various forms of frame according to one’s reading comprehension but, whatever we draw, we must have a model which will be based on and meet with certain principles of narrative situations.  Now, in our checklist, (1) the problematic heterodiegetic third person narrator seems in the extradiegetic level where it should be according to the jamming frame as it is present in the extradiegetic level in the first three parts of Atonement. So, it does not pose a problem anymore. It is present where it should be. (2) Briony becomes a narrator twice and both narrators are present at the same level, extradiegetic where they should be placed. (3) This time Briony becomes a character as a writer and becomes again a character as an implied writer in a way which are present in the same l intradiegetic level. Also, the World 1 and World 2 of the characters are on the same level. And finally  (4) Ian Mcewan – transnarrator, the homodiegetic narrator- heterodiegetic narrator, and young Briony- mutual Briony of them, all meet on the same matrix as a reflection of each other as they look at themselves in the mirror ( see table 3: narrative matrix)  This is the predominant effect which distorts the verisimilitude of the accounts in the storyline. Each role exquisitely meets its reflective opposite role at the same level but of course, this is not happening by sheer coincidence with a freak narrative of nature. It comes to light with the extra intervention of the transnarrator Ian Mcewan put in. The two worlds which are supposed to be embedded within each other since the distorted frame, by the abnormality of the location of the third person heterodiegetic narrator, violates and contradicts the layout of the accepted norms on the narrative frame, they run parallel to each other on the same level. This parallelism leads to the absolute necessity to form the jamming frame as a solution to the shortcomings and incongruities in the practical applicability of the currently well-recognized narrative frame. There is an author-narrator involvement which in return, we come across with a textual battle of wits between the operating factors which postulate the relevant referential pillars of the narrative in relation to their own intertextual realities that form the unity of the novel.  The author’s extra-interference can be likened to the touch of the god. But, it is not a simple tender touch because it also leads to the author losing its distance.  Aristotle, in Poetics (chap.17)  makes clear the distance of the author as one of the main reasons for the inconsistencies. It is well worth quoting:

“In constructIng the plot and workIng It out wIth the proper dIctIon, the poet should place the scene, as far as possIble, before hIs eyes. In thIs way, seeIng everythIng wIth the utmost vIvIdness, as If he were a spectator of the action, he wIll discover what Is In keeping wIth IT, and be most unlIkely to overlook InconsIstencIs.”

2.2. The Unreliability of Narrative Situations

 In narrative where the problem of reliability arises is on the communicative function of the text. Idealogic, historical, and political intentions of an author or a narrator including implied author within the textual product are always open to transgression when they have been read in the different mechanisms of another culture. Yacobi Tamar in his work “fictional reliability as a Communicative Problem”( 1981: 113-26.) underlines five basic principles; (1) the genetic; (2) the generic; (3) the existential; (4) the functional; (5) the perspectival.  The violation of these principles inevitably brings inconsistencies and irrelevant elements to the fictive and the real composition of the text. Among these principles, the perspectival one plays the key role in Atonement. Tamar explains the perspectival principle as follows:

“the perspectival prIncIple, whICh brIngs dIvergent as well as otherwIse unrelated elements Into a pattern by attrIbutIng them, In the whole or In part, to the peculIarItIes and cIrcumstances of the observer through whom the world Is taken to be refracted”.

On Atonement when we come to the coda, refractional abnormality immideately manifests itself by the question “Who read the first part to us” A narrator of the world and the narrator of the first part as an independent book seem to have overlapped with each other. By employing The Jamming frame and transnarrator we solved the problem of the communicative narrative frame. However, the problem of unreliability still exists in its author and narrator. You will remember that a matrix on each level loomed large in our jamming frame and on each matrix two binary opposites came to face to face as it has been on the picture of the narrative matrix ( see Table 3) thus, it occurs in such a formulation as follows;

The Jamming frame and transnarrator
Narrative Matrix by Mahir BARUT

This formula goes on throughout the novel by repeating itself again and again within each temporality of the accounts. We can call this manifestation which occurs on each level of Atonement “matrixel effect”.  The coincidence of the two binary opposites can be easily detected through the pragmatic markers and intentional focalization as it is detected in the paragraph given below from the coda.

“Not my best, I thought. But the whole room, except for Leon, PIerrot and myself, rose for the applause. How practIced these chIldren were, rIght down to the curtaIn call. Hand In hand, they stood In lIne abreast, takIng theIr cue from Chloe, stepped back two paces, came forward, bowed agaIn. In he uproar, no one notIced that poor PIerrot was completely overcome and put his face In hIs hands.”

As it seems it is more likely as if our homodiegetic narrator seems to exceed her limited capacity and tries to turn to the heterodiegetic omniscient narrator who can access the minds, feelings, and perspectives of the other characters “No one noticed that poor Pierrot was completely overcome and put his face in his hands”. And also there is a quite distinctive retrospective act of thinking “ Not my best, I thought” which indicates a strong clash between the homodiegetic first-person overt narrator and the heterodiegetic third-person covert narrator.  Especially in part one at the beginning of Atonement, a considerable amount of examples which will verify the matrixel effect and its complications on the verisimilitude of the accounts on narrative. Writer versus Narrator by each page and line and by each level and world the author tries to resurrect the phantom of what Roland Barthnes gave a ceremonial funeral in his essay.

2.3. Criticism: The Implied Author Dispute and The Transnarrator

In narratology, the concept of Author-narrator first introduced by Booth (1961) closely seems to resemble our transnarrator. It is for this reason, I needed to cite a passage from “The Implied Author” written by Schmid, Wolf (Paragraph 2, the living handbook of narratology)

“The concept of ImplIed author refers to the author-Image contaIned In a work and constItuted by the stylIstIc, IdeologIcal, and aesthetIc propertIes for whIch IndexIcal sIgns can be found In the text. Thus, the ImplIed author has an objectIve and a subjectIve side: It Is grounded In the Indexes of the text, but these Indexes are perceIved and evaluated differently by each IndIvIdual reader. We have the ImplIed author In mInd when we say that each and every cultural product contains an Image of Its maker. The ImplIed author Is therefore not a category specIfIc to verbal narratIon; IT IS however, most often discussed In relatIon to lInguIstIc texts, partIcularly In narratologIcal contexts.”

In Wolf Schmid’s definition of the implied author, two characteristics are underlined; the first is the author-image constituted by the indexical signs and the second is that the implied author is perceived and evaluated differently by each individual reader. This definition is usually known as a reader-created concept. In this regard, (1) the transnarrator differs distinctively from the implied author because, first of all, the transnarrator comes into view as a compensatory actor and a stabilizer in direct relation to the parameters of narrative diegesis. It is an element that recovers and restores the abnormalities of the text. (2) The transnarrator can not be perceived differently by each reader since its presence is only seen and detected on the structural frame of the narrative. It has no direct pragmatic and intentional function. It is constituted by default from the paradoxical clash between the author and the narrator by the contribution of the extra-embedded fictive worlds

However, in terms of efficacy on the problem of reliability, the implied author and the transnarrator are common to each other but, they diverge from each other in which they originated. The implied author leads to the unreliability through the messages encoded which implies the author’s ideology and concentration against the different ideologies. But the reason behind the transnarrator leads to the unreliability lies on the balance of power between the author and narrator on a textual level.


In this study, I have tried to illuminate how the possible incongruities and some inconsistent parameters emerge in the narrative approaches that are applied to the narrative analysis in direct reference to the text of Atonement. In narrative respect, I have opened three points to debate; the first is the significance of the narrative understanding in our daily life, the second is the narrating jamming and the transnarrator, and the third is the matrix ( and matrical effect) and the unreliability as a ramification of the matrix. In my first argument, I hope that narrating understanding will provide a stimulus step to narrative analysis.

The second argument I worked on put forward a proposal to revise the communicative and the textual level. Some new terms are examined in the field of narrative terminology and their practical applicability is analyzed. These are (1) The Jamming is employed to mean the occurrence of intertexual abnormality. (2) The Transnarrator where the jamming is found, is employed as a device to symbolize the textual self-reaction against the abnormality as an equalizer. (3) The prediegetic level is utilized as a necessity for the transnarrator locating in it.

Finally, the problem of reliability is transferred to the analytical fields of narrative. I tried to prove that the reason for the unreliability is not only the author’s ideological traces left behind the text but also the natural result of the matrical effect which can be drawn and analyzed. I have not touched on the ethics of authorships although the unreliability and the ethics of authorships have much in common, I wanted the scope of the work to be confined to the narrative analyses.


  1. Aristotle   (1969), “Poetics”  translated by Ingram Bywater Oxford at the Clarendon         press
  2. H.Porter Abbot  (2008), “The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative”, second edition  Cambridge University Press) pp 01-24, 67-79
  3. Roland Barthes (1968), “The Death of The Author
  4. Roland Barthes (1975), “An Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative” ( The Johns Hopkins University Press pp 237-272
  5. Donald Braid (1996), “Personal Narrative and Experiential Meaning” (The Journal of American Folklore) pp5-30
  6. L.B. Cebik (1986), “Understanding Narrative Theory” ( History and Theory, Vol,25)pp. 58-51
  7. Umberto Eco (1990), “The Name of The Rose” ( Warner books edition)
  8. Gerard Genette (1972) “Narrative Discourse” (Cornell University Press) pp 212-263
  9. Ian McEvan (2002) , “Atonement” (NAN A. TALESE)
  10. Oddee, (2008) Prehistoric Cave Paintings (published under Amazing Art) 
  11. Schmid, Wolf (2010), “The living handbook of narratology”: “Implied Author”, Paragraph 2. In: Hühn, Peter et al. (eds.): Hamburg: Hamburg University Press.
  12. The first People – The Legends,
  13. The Internet Encylopedia of Science,
  14. Tamar Yacobi (1981), “Fictional Reliability as a Communicative Problem” (Poetics  Today, Vol.2 pp 113-126 
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