RARA-AVIS: The Narrative Voice in Hard-Boiled Fiction

From: Frederick Zackel (fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 25 Apr 2010

  • Next message: Jeff Vorzimmer: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Grimhaven"

    The first usage of the Unreliable Narrator in Crime in fiction that I know of came from Our Master ...

    Edgar Allan Poe.

    Check his wonderful "The Cask of Amontillado."

    Montresor is the murderer. Fortunato is the victim who trusts him. To quote Wikipedia, "In the last few sentences, Montresor reveals that it has been 50 years since the murder, he has never been caught, and Fortunato's body still hangs from its chains in the niche where he left it." Oh, and Montresor has zip remorse.

    I used to assign students the story & write two paragraphs. I'd ask them what Fortunato had done to Montresor, "suggest" they look up the phrase
    "unreliable narrator" and then collect their papers before I started on the story.

    They ALWAYS fell for Montresor's intense voice of iindignation.

    Afterwards, I'd tell them, "I want you guys on my jury for homicide. You'll believe the killer."

    Yep. Every student fell for Poe's voice. First person voice there makes every reader into Montresor's ... accomplice.

    Best wishes,

    Fred Zackel
    (Now available on Kindle.)


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