An epic text has a narrator who tells the story to the reader. This narrator can take different positions. This position is called a narrative perspective. Basically, we distinguish four narrative perspectives: the auctorial, personal, neutral, and the special form of the narrator. This post is about the neutral narrator.
A neutral narrator withdraws from the world of figures. This means that there is no narrative commentary or commentary that guides the reader through the story. The neutral narrator thus only shows externally perceptible processes, which can be compared with a silent film. However, the neutral narrator shows us dialogues, but does not allow us to look into the thoughts or emotions of the talking figures. Let’s look at an example.
At Walther Wortwuchs there was today a dinner of four courses: tomato soup, goose roasts and venison and a compote. For dinner the grandchildren of the man were loaded. After the last crumb was eaten, everyone said goodbye and Walther went to bed.
In the above example there is the protagonist Walther Wortwuchs and his grandchildren, who eat a menu with each other and then say goodbye, whereupon Walther falls to bed. We do not know what the characters think or how they feel, let alone whether Walther is tired or not.
Consequently, the narrator can be described as neutral, since he is largely reserved in respect of valuations, internal views, or explanations. The easiest way is to identify this narrative behavior in dialogues, which, of course, can do without a narrator. Let us look at an example from Theodor Fontanes Effi Briest, which is entirely designed without a narrator.
“His fate shall not be tried; Haughtiness comes before the event.”
“Always governess; you are the born maid. ”
“And I hope to marry. And perhaps rather than you. ”
In other works, dialogues are sometimes commented on by the narrator, evaluated, or enriched by additional information (“I hate you!”, He shouted angrily. “), While in this example the statements of the speakers stand alone. The neutral narrator thus gives us an insight into the conversation situation, but does not express himself to this.
For illustrative purposes, we would like to reformulate the first example into the personal narrative situation, so that it becomes clear what the fundamental difference between the two narrative perspectives is. We would be given information about the actors who are not visible from the outside.
Walther Wortwuchs, an embittered German teacher, was given a dinner of four courses: tomato soup, roast goose and venison, as well as a compote. For dinner the grandchildren of the man were invited, which he could not stand. After the last crumb was eaten – Walther had not tasted it – everyone took leave of each other and Walther went tired to bed.
Note: The difference between personal and neutral narrator should be apparent. The color markers give the reader additional information about the condition or the interior of the person acting. A neutral narrator does not reveal these details.
What can a neutral narrator?
In principle, a neutral narrator is a variant of the personal narrative perspective. However, he is entirely in the background and mingles neither judging nor commenting.
According to this, the story has almost no account of the narrative, which is especially suitable for a factual, narrative and straightforward representation. The narrator is therefore hardly present and the reader is certainly alone with what he gets shown and experiences in dialogues.
This is why a neutral narrator is used mainly in scenic representations, as in the above example (Effi Briest). The narrator does not evaluate this and the reader is not influenced or directed by him.
Conclusion: The neutral narrator thus renounces the inner view of the figures. This can be seen for the reader only in dialogues or through the described life situations of the figures.
How does a neutral narrator work?
Of course, it is very difficult to attribute a clear effect or function to a narrative perspective. At the same time, the perspectives can be changeable, and in addition, we run the risk of reducing the narrative behavior to this effect and do not check whether it actually does so. Nevertheless we would like to give some hints.
In contrast to the other narrative perspectives, a neutral narrator is characterized above all by practicality. As a result, he is sometimes less engaging, hardly suggestive and also no ally of the reader. It is neutral and therefore hardly perceptible.
Thus a sober mood can be achieved or a factual situation can be created. The reader is in this case, who must evaluate the happenings and not the narrator. However, this narrative behavior can have a monotonous effect, which is why, in some texts – if the inner life is clearly to be transported – there is a change in the perspective of the narrative.
Overview: The most important thing about the neutral narrator in review
A neutral narrator is not present in the world of figures, but merely shows the reader what is happening, that is, all visible events. Everything that is not visible externally is also hidden for the reader.
Consequently, a neutral narrator is often characterized by the notion of narrative narrative. For this, there is the concept Camera-Eye, which is more from the film, but appears to be very appropriate. The narrator is thus rather a passive camera eye.
The neutral narrative behavior is often used when a factual, sober or even straightforward representation is desired. The reason for this is that the displayed content is communicated in principle free of value and is only occupied by the reader.
Furthermore, the neutral narrative perspective is a special form of the personal. Here the actions of the individual figures are shown from the outside. However, it is not allowed to look into the head of one or more figures – this is the difference.
Important: Author and narrator can not be equated with each other because they are different entities. The author has created the narrator to tell the story. But it is not the same person. Moreover, the term applies only to the epic. In lyric, the voice of the text is called a lyric self.