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Narrative structure – questions

March 18, 2011

“If beginnings always have a context and are therefore determined by what comes before, … in turn, beginnings determine what comes after.”[1]

“The first half of a fiction insists ever on figuring to me as the stage or theatre for the second half….”[2]


I have a list of questions I put to each text I analyse (though not each question applies to every text). These are the ones that I relate to narrative structure:

Narrative Structure

– What relevant action happened before the story begins? How do we know and where in the narrative is this revealed? Is it revealed?

– How does the narrative begin and conclude? And where?

– What are the borders of the text?

– What kind of order does this narrative place upon what?? (what is the story and what ‘order’ is it given?)

– Do chance / lack play a significant part in the narrative? – no, then what?

– What are the criteria of relevance?? (how does the narrative structure determine what is relevant??)

– Is there closure??

– What generic notions surround the text?? To which genre does it belong?? Which cultural paradigms answer to this genre??

– Is the ‘problem’ well defined in the beginning? Or does it appear slowly, as if the narrator is withholding information (as in Beckett’s Genesis)?  What effect does this have on the reader’s relationship with the narrator/text?

– Define the organising principle ; what drives it? Its engine?? To what purpose this narrative? Why the interest?

[1] P4 Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle (1999) Introduction to literature, criticism and theory. Prentice Hall Europe …

[2] p86 The Art of the Novel, prefaces by Henry James (I confess… I’d need to go hunting for more of this reference!)

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