RARA-AVIS: Woolrich's "Fright" - 1st vs 3rd person narration

From: harry.lerner@mail.mcgill.ca
Date: 20 Feb 2008

As I read "Fright" I am noticing that Woolrich shifts between 1st and 3rd person narration. More precisely, he primarily wrote this novel from the 3rd person, although sometimes it seems as though the protagonist (Prescott Marshall) is talking about himself in the third person. Occasionally, however, Woolrich shifts into first person narration, usually when Marshall feels most paranoid or afraid and least in control of his circumstances. My impression is that this shifting serves to heighten the tension of those scenes where Marshall is at his most vulnerable, i.e. to make them all the more personal for both Marshall and the reader.

Since "Fright" is my first foray into the works of Woolrich, and in light of the many comments made recently on this list regarding Woolrich's penchant for experimentation, is this shifting of narrative style a common technique in Woolrich's work? Is it a fairly common technique in noir in general? Is it always used for the same reason
(to achieve the same effect) or are there different reasons for employing this technique? I find its use, at least by Woolrich, fascinating and ultimately very effective.

Thanks! Harry

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