Gender and Narrative Perspective in Margaret Atwood’s Stories



Let me sketch my conception of narrative perspective first (cf. Meindl, pp. 14–30). It hinges upon the distinction between what I call the authorial and figural frame of reference in narrative discourse. This distinction governs a system of narrative privileges and limitations. The figural frame of reference features a first-person narrator or, in third-person narrative, a centre-of-consciousness figure. These narrator or reflector figures have no direct access to the minds of other characters, whose thoughts cannot be simply stated. Thus, narrative perspective is limited in quantitative terms. On the other hand, the attitude and views of a narrator or reflector figure are only conditionally valid. They can occupy the whole range of human modes: reliability, error, deception of self or others, and so on. In qualitative terms, narrative perspective is thus unlimited. Conversely, in the authorial frame of reference of third person narrative, the minds of the fictional characters are open to inspection. A character’s thought can be simply stated. Quantitatively speaking, narrative perspective is thus unlimited. On the other hand, authorial attitude is not equivalent to a narrating figure or subject with potentially subjective views.


Female Focalisers Figural Frame Authorial Attitude Narrative Perspective Free Indirect Discourse 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

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