'Russian Formalism in Practice: A Narratological Reading of Joseph Conrad's Youth' - 'SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences' - NotaBene.ru
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SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Russian Formalism in Practice: A Narratological Reading of Joseph Conrad's Youth

Poursanati Susan

PhD in Philology

Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Allameh Tabataba'i University

1997967556, Iran, Tegeran oblast', g. Tegeran, ul. Allameh Shomali, 40, kab. rusi

Other publications by this author

Ghodrati Asgar

ORCID: 0000-0002-6803-8211

PhD in Philology

Senior Lecturer, Department of Russian Language, Allame Tabatabai University

1997967556, Iran, Tegeran oblast', g. Tegeran, ul. Allameh Shomali, 40, aud. Universitet

Other publications by this author










Abstract: Conrad's shorter works of fiction are mostly ignored in the formalistic analysis of his critics. Therefore, in order to fill the gap in the literature associated with the narrative structure of Conrad's shorter works, the authors of this article consider in detail the ideas of Genette's narratology for Conrad's story "Youth, Narration". Narratology, the method used in this article, is a science of literature that originated in the works of Russian formalists and is engaged in the systematic study of narratives. The purpose of this science is to identify the basic structures and relationships involved in the creation of history and its meaning. To achieve this goal, the theorists of narratology have introduced and defined a number of language rules that separate all narratives written in all languages. The scientific novelty of the work lies in the fact that in practice the narratological reading of the material is shown, and also shows how the authors apply these structural rules to their texts. Genette, a French narratologist, introduced five narrative categories in his book Narrative Discourse; these categories include Order, Duration, Frequency, Mood, and Voice. This article discusses Genette's narrative categories applied to Joseph Conrad's short story "Youth, Narrative" and identifies the structural nuances of this story in order to help readers in general and those who study literature, in particular, to touch upon a careful reading of Conrad's writing style.


literature, English, russian, narrative discourse, narrative categories, narrative, russian formalism, Conrad, Genette, Narratology

One could argue that every narrative operates according to this double logic, presenting its plot as a sequence of events which is prior to and independent of the given perspective on these events, and, at the same time, suggesting by its implicit claims to significance that these events are justified by their appropriateness to a thematic structure. [13, p.107]

1. Introduction

In the second decade of the twentieth century, a new literary theory emerged in two Russian cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The movement was called Russian formalism as its focus was on the patterns, techniques and literary devices in a work of literature or to be more specific, in a poem [1, p. 126]. Later on, however, some Russian formalists shifted their attention from poetry to narrative in its various forms. One such figure was Vladimir Propp whose book, The Morphology of the Folktale (1928), inaugurated what is called modern narratology [1, p. 209]. In this book, Propp elaborates on the structural elements and the recurrent narrative themes and devices in the folktales and fairy tales. As time passed, the scope of narratology was expanded and its adherents, the Russian formalists and the French structuralists developed new ideas and added up new technicalities to Propp’s version of narratology. In general, we can say that the narratologists attempt to reveal “the ‘grammar’ of narrative in terms of structures and narrative formulas that recur in many stories, whatever the differences in the narrated subject matters”. Gerard Genette, the French narratologist and critic in his book, Narrative Discourse (1980) analyses the interrelationship between a story and the methods involved in its narration. He, specifically, highlights the treatment of point of view in the narrative of fictional works [1, p. 209] within the general framework of the theory of narratology.

Victor Erlich believes that the appearance of the content related to Russian formalism “in Western European or American publications were scarce, brief and more often than not geared to specialized audiences” [6, p. 215]. But this cannot stop astute literary critics from exploring this field of study. As Russian Formalism and the movements that stemmed from it are not given enough care and attention from the literary critics around the world, it seems necessary to have a short review of the history and the main ideas of the movement before moving on to the analysis of Conrad’s short story.

Rene Wellek has considered the year 1914 as the official starting point of this literary movement:

Viktor Shklovsky's Resurrection of the Word (1914) is usually considered the first clear pronouncement but, as a group appearance, the two small Symposia on the Theory of Poetic Language, published in Petersburg in 1916/17 and after the Revolution the collection, Poetika, printed in 1919, present something like a common front. The movement became institutionalized by the founding, in October 1919 of the Society for the Investigation of Poetic Language (Opojaz). [22, p. 177]

Erlich summarises and explains what is implied in the statements of this group of critics about the aims of the movement as a mode of study in this way:

[It] is not the Russian variant of the supranational “formalist" trend which asserts itself periodically in art and in literary criticism. What is at issue is a more specific and more easily identifiable historical entity-notably, a school in Russian literary scholarship which originated in the second decade of the twentieth century, flourished in the 1920's and was forcibly suppressed in 1930. [5, p. 627]

Erlich adds that this group of formalists “favored such self-definitions as the ‘morphological’ approach or ‘specifiers’” [5, p. 628] that could give a better portrayal of the preferred activities of the proponents of this school of thought. Two major proponents of Russian Formalism, Jakobson and Eichenbaum, have given an overall image of the aims and approches of the group:

"The subject of literary scholarship," said Jakobson, "is not literature in its totality but literariness (literaturnost), i .e., that which makes of a given work a work of literature." "The literary scholar," added Eichenbaum, “ought to be concerned solely with the inquiry into the distinguishing features of the literary materials." [5, p. 628]

These formalist practices “were tested in acute studies of rhythm, style, and narrative structure” [5, p. 631]. As the focus of this paper is the structure of a work of short fiction, some of the ideas of the Russian formalists about the study of the elements of a story are discussed here.

According to Eichenbaum, a work of literature "is always something made, shaped, invented, not only artful but artificial in the good sense of the word"[5, p. 632]. Moreover, in his Theory of Prose (1925), Shklovsky “asserted the primacy of organization over theme, of narrative conventions over "life" allegedly reflected or deflected in the work” [5, p. 632]. Consequently, because of its structural complexities, narrative mode can provide the formalist critic with a ripe space to explore the adherence and the deviation of the authors to and from the predefined codes of the genre.

Erlich believes that “one of the most valid Formalist contributions to the theory of fiction was the study in comparative folklore, V. I. Propp's Morphology of the Folktale[5, p. 632]. Propp, whose ideas developed the main structure of the field of narratology, “was born in St. Petersburg in 1895; his father was a German emigre. He studied at the Faculty of Letters of St. Petersburg University” [9, p. 25]. Though, he has introduced his narratological views by referring to folktales, Propp asserts that his findings can be expanded to other forms of narrative fiction:

I identified the law that governed a very modest field, the law of one of the types of folktale; but even then it seemed to me that the discovery of this law might also be of more general importance. The very term "morphology" was taken not from those handbooks of botany whose chief aim is classification, nor from grammatical treatises, but from the works of Goethe, who assembled under this title works of botany and of osteology. Goethe's use of this term marks a breakthrough in the study of the laws that pervade nature, and it was no accident that he moved from botany to comparative osteology. I can warmly recommend these works to structuralists. [18, p. 13]

Here, Propp recommends the structuralists to reconsider the functionality of his narratological ideas, and later in the same article, he justifies this claim by suggesting the analysis of the functions of the characters in a narrative form to his structuralist peers:

It is an entirely separate matter that the method of analysis of narrative genres based on the functions of the characters may turn out to be effective not only for magical folktales but also for other types of folktale, and possibly also in the study of world literature of a narrative character. But it is easy to foresee that in each of these cases the concrete results will be entirely different. Thus, for instance, cumulative tales are constructed on quite different principles from magical tales.' [18, p. 13]

It can be inferred that in this manner, Propp is enchaining the Russian formalist criticism to the Structuralist school of thinking, regarding narrative as the common ground for their studies. Hence, he proposes that “There are, then, various types of narrative which can nevertheless be analysed by identical methods” [18, p. 13]. In a similar vein, McQuillan asserts that:

One could argue that every narrative operates according to this double logic, presenting its plot as a sequence of events which is prior to and independent of the given perspective on these events, and, at the same time, suggesting by its implicit claims to significance that these events are justified by their appropriateness to a thematic structure. [13, p.107]

With this point of view towards the plot of a story, Propp's methodology proves useful and practical in analysing other narrative modes such as novels and short stories. The analytical method proposed by Gerard, Genette, a narratologist whose ideas are influenced by Vladimir Propp's conception of narratives seems to be helpful in dissecting the structure of a narrative as well.

The study of the structure of a text does not imply that historical and cultural factors are ineffective in shaping a narrative; however, it will help to analyse the stylistic and narratological specificities of an author. Conrad’s works of fiction are distinguished for their experimentations with narrative theories. His stories are original in terms of their “innovative temporalities”, “the multiple agents” who transmit the narrative, and the “experiments with narrative frames and embedding as well as with audiences” [12, p.2]. Using Gerard Genette’s ideas in Narrative Discourse, Lothe “undertook the first systematic study” of modes and aspects of narrative in Conrad’s Narrative Method (1989) [12, p.7]. He asserts that the Conradian narrative mode maintains two central characteristics as on the one hand, it controls and manipulates the ways of the reading of its audience, and on the other, different readers can receive some of its passages very differently as the elements of a narrative can distort the textual experience of the them [10, p.15]. Conrad’s shorter works of fiction are mostly ignored in this book and other structuralist analyses of other critics. For instance, while he introduces the character of Marlow in Youth, his importance in the narrative is mostly discussed in relation to Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, and the critics have underrated Youth [20, p.37]. Nevertheless, Conrad himself was aware of the stylistic opportunities provided by the shorter forms as they could better reveal the style of an author [20, p.28]: “It takes a small-scale narrative (short story) to show the master’s hand” [3, p.124]. To fill the gap in the literature related to Conrad’s shorter works, the authors of the present paper apply Genette’s ideas of narratology to Conrad’s short story Youth, a Narrative.

2. Method

Genette has established five categories of narrative analysis. The first category is “Order” that depends on prolepsis or anticipation, analepsis or flashback, and anachorany for its operation. The second category is “Duration” which refers to the elisions, expansions, summarisations, and pauses of a narrative. “Frequency” is the third category that signifies the number of events and the number of their occurrences in the narrative. The fourth category, “Mood” has two subdivisions: distance and perspective. Distance addresses the manner of representing or recounting of the story, and the subcategory of perspective refers to what the critics traditionally call the point of view. The last category is “Voice” which includes the act of narration, the narrators, and the narratees [7, p.105-6]. This paper utilises Genette’s categories and some of their subdivisions to underscore the narratological structure of Youth.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. Order

According to Christian Metz, “one of the functions of narrative is to invent one time scheme in terms of another time scheme” [14, p.18]. This is one of the most significant characteristics of Conrad’s narratives as he constantly uses “chronological distortion” [20, p.172]. In Youth, Genette’s “temporal duality” happens as the time scheme of the narration is different from the time scheme of the narrative while Marlow intervenes in both time schemes. Genette adds that the time of the narrative is a “false time” or a “pseudo-time” that stands against the true time of the narration that is the time when the story is actually read [8, p.33-34]. However, in Youth the false time and the pseudo-time are not as clear-cut as Genette’s formula as Conrad introduces the frame audience at the beginning of the story:

We were sitting round a mahogany table that reflected the bottle, the claret-glasses, and our faces as we leaned on our elbows. There was a director of companies, an accountant, a lawyer, Marlow, and myself. The director had been a Conway boy, the accountant had served four years at sea, the lawyer—a fine crusted Tory, High Churchman, the best of old fellows, the soul of honour—had been chief officer in the P. & O. service in the good old days when mail-boats were square-rigged at least on two masts, and used to come down the China Sea before a fair monsoon with stun’-sails set alow and aloft. We all began life in the merchant service. Between the five of us there was the strong bond of the sea, and also the fellowship of the craft, which no amount of enthusiasm for yachting, cruising, and so on can give, since one is only the amusement of life and the other is life itself. [4, p.109]

Thus, through the frame audience, Conrad may cause the readers to fluctuate between the roles of the frame audience and their role as those persons who are currently reading the story in their own era.

Moreover, Order refers to the “connections between the temporal order of succession of the events in the story and the pseudo-temporal order of their arrangement in the narrative” and the temporal order of the narrative, states Genette, can implicitly or explicitly show the temporal order of the story itself [8, p 35]. In Youth, the temporal order of the story is explicitly hinted at by the narrative. The readers know that there is a twenty-two-year lapse between the time of the story and the time of the narrative. Interestingly, Conrad keeps us conscious of this temporal lapse through the short sentence “Pass the bottle” which the members of the frame audience enunciate now and then and interrupt the flow of the events:

At the end of that time, the captain being engaged with his agents, I carried Mrs. Beard’s bag to the railway-station and put her all comfy into a third-class carriage. She lowered the window to say, ‘You are a good young man. If you see John—Captain Beard—without his muffler at night, just remind him from me to keep his throat well wrapped up.’ ‘Certainly, Mrs. Beard,’ I said. ‘You are a good young man; I noticed how attentive you are to John—to Captain—’ The train pulled out suddenly; I took my cap off to the old woman: I never saw her again... Pass the bottle. [4, p.113]

Another device Conrad uses to keep the readers aware of the different temporal orders of the narrative and the story is Marlow’s repetition of the pronoun “you” that he uses mostly in questions which he asks from the audience. For instance, in “We put her head for home, and—would you believe it?” [4, p. 115] Marlow addresses the frame audience to distance the readers from the old story he is narrating.

While Genette, generally, defines anachorany as any “discordance between the two temporal orders of story and narrative”, he reserves the term analepsis specifically for “any evocation after the fact of an event that took place earlier than the point in the story where we are at any given moment” [8, p.40]. Based on these definitions, the readers can conclude that in the narrative of Youth anachrony happens between the time of the narration and the time of narrative and, thus, technically speaking, this anachorany happens in the form of the analepsis or the flashback.

Marlow’s flashback or the analeptic narration starts with “Yes, I have seen a little of the Eastern seas, but what I remember best is my first voyage there”, but he immediately addresses his instant narratees as well as his implied audience with a general statement about life, and thus creates a fragmented version of his narrative. This type of fragmentation continues to be one of the main features of the narrative of Youth up to the end of it: “You fellows know there are those voyages that seem ordered for the illustration of life that might stand for a symbol of existence” [4, p.109]. After enunciating such statements, he goes back to his original narrative. Hence, Marlow explicitly refers to the temporal distinction between the time of the story and the time of the narrative: “It was twenty-two years ago; and I was just twenty” [4, p.110]. He points to the time lapse in many other occasions during his narration to keep the audience constantly conscious of both times: “the famous October gale of twenty-two years ago” [4, p.111] is one of the reminding expressions enunciated by Marlow.

When an anachorany happens between the time of the narrative and the time of the story it consists of a reach and an extent. The temporal distance between the moment of the narration and the moment of the narrative is its reach. In Youth,for example, the reach of the anachorany are the twenty-two years between Marlow’s adventurous youth and his maturity. Genette calls the duration of the story that anachorany covers its extent [8, p.48]. Thus, the extent of the anachorany in Youth is as long as the length of the parts that fill the gaps between the interruptions.

What has happened before the starting point of the story signifies as internal analepsis. Internal analepsis subdivides into smaller branches. One of its subdivisions is heterodiegetic internal analepsis. In this kind of analepsis, the storyline of the part that is an analepsis is “different from the content (contents) of the first narrative”. Moreover, a character whom the author has recently introduced into the story can recount such kind of analepsis [8, p.49-50]. Thus, if the critics aim to categorise the anachorany of Youth in detail, they can call it a heterodiegetic internal analepsis, in which first the frame narrator introduces Marlow and then Marlow starts to recount his own narrative: “Marlow (at least I think that is how he spelt his name) told the story, or rather the chronicle, of a voyage” [4, p.109].However, the temporal order is only one of the possible ways of distancing the narrative from the story. Lothe has introduced three kinds of distance: temporal, spatial, and attitudinal [20, p.166]. In Youth, the character of Marlow fits well into these three kinds. There is a temporal lapse of twenty-two years between the time of the narrative and the time of the narration; while Marlow and his audience are in England, his narrative relates events that have happened in various places; finally, the mature Marlow is different from the young Marlow in his attitudes toward youth, being old, and the East.

3.2. Duration

The category of duration signifies the connections between the real duration of the events in different sections of the story and their pseudo-duration or their textual length in the narrative. Thus, it is related to the speed with which the narrator relates the narration [8, p.35]. At the surface, it seems that in Youth the duration of the events of the narrative simply constitutes the time allocated to their narration by Marlow. But, deep down, the interrupting statements “Pass the bottle”, or “He drank” make the duration of narrating the passages which are located among the interrupting moments remain unknown and ambiguous.

3.3. Frequency

Frequency deals with the number of events and the number of their recurrences in the narrative. In sum, this category signifies “the repetitive capacities of the story and those of the narrative” [8, p.35]. A narrative “may tell once what happened once, n times what happened n times, n times what happened once, once what happened n times”. Thus, four distinct types of frequency are possible to discern in narratives: (1) Narrating once what happened once: Events that cover a singular scene are singulative narratives and belong to this type [8, p.114]; in Youth the whole event and its adventures are narrated once and thus they are singulative narratives; (2) Narrating n times what happened n times: Genette argues this type is a subdivision of the first type as not the number of occurrences but the equality of the number of occurrences and the number of narrations is important; (3) Narrating n times what happened once [8, p.115]: this type of frequency is absent from the narrative of the short story Youth; (4) Narrating one time what happened n times: this fourth type is the most relevant type to the narrative of Youth. Within this type of narrative frequency, the notion of iterative narrative in which “a single narrative utterance takes upon itself several utterances together of the same event” is defined. To put it in more clarified terms Genette explains that the “iterative sections are almost always functionally subordinate to singulative scenes, for which the iterative sections provide a sort of informative frame or background” [8, p.116-17]. If we consider Marlow’s narration of his voyage as the singulative event, the different descriptive passages about each adventure during the same voyage can act as the iterative sections of that singulative scene.

The iterative narratives have more details. Each iterative narrative is part of an iterative series. The series includes diachronic limits or determination and the rhythm of the recurrence of its single iterative narratives or specification. Finally, iterative series are defined by their extension that refers to the duration the narrator selects to narrate out of the whole duration of the events [8, p.127]. It is remarkable that without the determinations and specifications within a narrative, the text’s flow would stop at the very first sentence [8, p.137]. The determination of Youth is the time limit between the beginning of the voyage and its end. However, the narrator can interrupt the determinations to mark the limits of the iterative series [8, p.140] as with the interruptions the mature Marlow makes in the narrative. The specification constitutes the events chosen by Marlow to be recounted in front of his audience (as his frame audience and the readers of his narrative cannot know what events have exactly happened to him and how many of those events he selects to narrate). The extension of the events in Youth refers to the extent of each episode. For example, if Marlow and other members of Judea’s crew had been busy pumping the water out of the ship or extinguishing the fire for many days, Marlow only narrates a few hours of those episodes. He mentions some passages of time without any description of the events happened in between. For example: “That ‘ere bank that’s going to Bankok – has been here six months – put back three times” [4, p.116] and in this way adds up to the gaps of the story.

Moreover, an event is not fully identical with its repetition(s). As Genette describes it “The ‘repetition’ is in fact a mental construction, which eliminates from each occurrence everything belonging to it that is peculiar to itself, in order to preserve only what it shares with all the others of the same class, which is an abstraction”. As a consequence, “what we will name here ‘identical events’ or ‘recurrence of the same event’ is a series of several similar events considered only in terms of their resemblance[8, p.113]. Conrad refers to death and aging in various parts of Youth. Captain Beard and his wife, Mahon, with his white beard, and the ship itself are among the most frequent references of the narrative to the old age [17, p.53]. By and large, the most frequent theme of the narrative is the difference between youth and old age. Some parts refer to youth and some others to the oldness of the characters. But the most interesting references are those which put youth and old age side by side each other; or one as the antithesis of the other: “between those two old chaps I felt like a small boy between two grandfathers” [4, p.110]. A few lines later Marlow describing Judea makes another example of contrast between youth and being old: “I remember it took my fancy immensely. There was a touch of romance in it, something that made me love the old thing – something that appealed to my youth!” Another frequent theme in Youth is death. The motto of the ship is “ ‘Do or Die’ ” [4, p.110], and “youth, strength, genius, thoughts, achievements, simple hearts – all die . . . No matter” [4, p.112] as another example of such recurrence.

The English crew are praised elsewhere in the story, for the first time by the narrator and for the next times by Marlow. One of the most prominent episodes in which the English seamen are eulogised is the episode in which Judea’s cargo has exploded [20, p.33]. In this episode, the hardworking seamen from Liverpool responsibly cooperate in the act of extinguishing the fire and the narrator thinks they manifest their difference from other seamen in their strength: “That crew of Liverpool hard cases had in them the right stuff. It is my experience they always have. It is the sea that gives it” [4, p.122]. More clearly, in one occasion Marlow praises not the crew from Liverpool in particular, but the English nation in general: “There was a completeness in it, something solid like a principle, and masterful like an instinct—a disclosure of something secret—of that hidden something, that gift, of good or evil that makes racial difference, that shapes the fate of nations” [4, p.124]. Therefore, nationalism turns out to be one of the repetitions in the story.

The name of the Eastern city Bangkok (spelled Bankok in the story) is repeated for eighteen times in Marlow’s narrative. Moreover, other references represent the Orient as an exotic and romantic place. “Pass the bottle” is repeated for five times within the narrative. In relation to “Pass the bottle”, “he drank” and “He drank again” are each mentioned once. Marlow ends his narrative with some generalised facts about life, youth, and aging. Thus, his narration takes longer than the narrative. At the beginning of the last paragraph, the narrator shifts from Marlow to the frame narrator, who ends the story as Marlow does his own narrative by repeating the themes of Marlow’s narrative and expressing some facts about youth.

3.4. Mood

To define mood in the simplest possible manner is to define it as the different points of view from which the events and the actions are narrated by the narrator(s). To define it more technically, the category of mood concerns the “regulation of narrative information” through distance and perspective [8, p.161-62]. The present paper only consider perspective.

The narrator plays a crucial role in shaping the narrative as he/she “is present as source, guarantor, and organizer of the narrative, as analyst and commentator, as stylist” as well as the “producer of ‘metaphors’” [8, p.167]. About first-person narration Friedman’s idea that is cited by Genette is helpful to the narratological understanding of the term:

The reader perceives the action as it filters through the consciousness of one of the characters involved, yet perceives it directly as it impinges upon that consciousness, thus avoiding that removal to a distance necessitated by retrospective first-person narration. [21, p.113]

In his discussion of the perspective which is associated more with choice rather than point of view, Genette argues that the subdivision perspective is the answer of the following questions: “who is the character whose point of view orients the narrative perspective? and the very different question who is the narrator? – or, more simply, the question who sees and the question who speaks” [8, p.186). If the readers want to answer Genette’s questions in relation to Conrad’s Youth, they will face the confusion of the perspective of both the story and the narrative. At first glance, it may seem that it is only Marlow whose point of view orients the narrative perspective, but taking the case with greater consideration and precision, the readers can realise that the frame narrator’s point of view also influences the orientation of the narrative. First, he introduces Marlow and puts credit on his character, and second, he confirms Marlow’s attitudes towards youth and old age in his final remarks. The question “who is the narrator?” has two answers in case of Youth: the frame narrator and Marlow, who narrate two different narratives which are both temporally and spatially distinguished. The most complicated part of the process of answering Genette’s questions about the perspective of a narrative in relation to Conrad’s Youth, however, is to answer the final two questions. While it is the young Marlow who sees the events, it is the mature Marlow who speaks about them. Do the readers receive the narrative as is happened and experienced by the young Marlow, or are they the audience of the mature Marlow’s comments on what is experienced by the young Marlow? The structure of the story remains silent about this ambiguous duality of perspective. Genette is attentive to such dualities. He argues that the narrator has two choices of focalisation. He/she can either focalise through “his present information as narrator and not with his past information as hero” or “the focalization through the hero” that requires he/she to suppress or neglect all the vital information he/she has acquired after the time of the narrative [8, p.198-99]. While the mature Marlow sometimes clearly passes some comments on youth, it is almost impossible to distinguish between the perspective of the young Marlow who is the hero of the narration and the mature Marlow who is the narrator.

To what Genette has categorised as perspective, Mikel Bal adds the notion of perception [2, p.143]. To put it in a clearer sense, perspective and perception are related to each other as “perspective is associated with choice (what to see or notice and what to omit and exclude)” [11, 42]. Both Conrad and Marlow choose the perspective for the readers in Youth. Conrad shapes this narrative in a way that the readers have no choice but to rely on Marlow. But it is not clear to what extent they can count on Marlow as a reliable narrator.

Conrad’s use of Marlow as an involved first-person narrator is justified by the distinction Stanzel makes between first-person narrators and third-person narrators:

[A] first-person narrator and third-person narrator, accounts for the most important difference in the motivation of the narrator to narrate. For an embodied narrator, this motivation is existential; it is directly connected with his practical experiences ... For the third-person narrator, on the other hand, there is no existential compulsion to narrate. [19, p. 93]

Conrad’s shifts among various kinds of perspectives and narrators can affect the coherence of his narrative making it “fragmented and multi-faceted” [20, p.164] or even, sometimes, confusing.

3.5. Voice

In Genette’s terminology, the category of voice refers specifically to the subject and the instance of the enunciating [8, p.31-32]. Voice deals with the time of the narrating, narrative level, and the person(s) involved in the act of narration [8, p. 215]. The category of voice refers “not only to the person who carries out or submits to the action, but also the person (the same one or another) who reports it, and, if need be, all those people who participate, even though passively, in this narrating activity”

[8, p.213). In the story Youth the young Marlow carries out the action, the mature Marlow (the same person) reports it, and the frame narrator participates passively in the narrating activity. The temporal determinants have a more prominent role than the spatial determinants in framing a narrative as the narrator(s) should tell the story in a present, past, or future time [8, p.215]. The category of voice relates to the time of the story in terms of its “temporal position”. This temporal position is of four kinds: subsequent or past-tense narrative which is the most frequent type, prior or predictive narrative, simultaneous or contemporaneous, and interpolated that is narration between the moments of the action [8, p.217]. Youth, a Narrative is mostly of the subsequent type. But the interrupting moments in which, for example, it is asked to pass the bottle, the narrative turns to the interpolated type. In addition, Genette defines metalapsis as: “The transition from one narrative level to another” that “can in principle be achieved only by the narrating, the act that consists precisely of introducing into one situation, by means of a discourse, the knowledge of another situation” [8, p.234]. The time lapse between the narrative and the narration in Conrad’s Youth is technically called Metalapses in terms of its voice.

3.5.1. Person

Genette argues that the point of view as a subdivision of the category of mood is inadequate to be in relation to the personal character of the narrator. In point of view the wit, presence, and the person of the narrator are disregarded. Thus, to give a voice to the narrator Genette distinguishes two types of the narration with regards to its narrator. The one in which “the narrator is absent from the story he tells” is heterodiegetic, and the one in which the narrator is “present as a character in the story” is homodiegetic [8, p.243-45]. The narrative within the story of Youth is thus homodiegetic. Genette defines two varieties for the homodiegetic type, as well. The narrator is either the hero of the narrative, or the secondary personage in it [8, p.245]. The first variety for which Youth is an example is autodiegetic. When the hero and the narrator are at one, however, it is noteworthy, that the hero is someone else, who is in a different condition from the narrator [8, p.218]. In this story, the narrator is present both inside and outside of his narrative as Marlow communicates with both the crew members of the Judea and his four narratees in two different times.

In Conrad’s fictions the narrator or in the case of Youth the narrators have crucial functions in shaping the narrative [20, p.161]. As the narrators dictate the conditions of the narrative, they have a sort of authority that other characters cannot claim [16, p.58]. The accuracy of the narrator’s memory is functional in rendering the narrative and the critique of the narrator.When the narrator feels authorised to comment on the actions and the attitudes of the hero, like what the mature Marlow does, according to Genette, the effect is the ideological function [8, p.256]. In some points of the narrative, Conrad highlights the inadequacy of the remarks of an involved first person-narrator like Marlow. Marlow has some doubts about the information he is providing for the audience. For instance, he is not sure whether the name of the steamer which damaged Judea was Miranda or Melissa [4, p.112]. Even the frame narrator is not wholly reliable as he is not sure about the name and even the identity of Marlow: “Marlow (at least I think that is how he spelt his name)” [4, p.109] and in this way adds up to the ambiguity and mysteriousness of the story.

The direct narratees are different from the actual and the implied readers, and the narrator and the author are distinguishable. The existence of the direct or the intradiegetic narratees can act like a distancing or alienating device since they are “interposed between the narrator and us” [8, p.260]. Genette’s views about the intradiegetic narratees are applicable to the frame narratees of Youth. In this case, Conrad’s use of the frame audience blurs the borderline between the narratees inside and outside the story [20, p.13]. Through a group of audience who can act as a substitute of the real audience of the narrative, Conrad also complicates the involvement and the distance of the readers with the narrative [20, p.38]. Like the frame narrator of Heart of Darkness whom Lothe asserts has the role of both the narratee and the reader or audience, in general [10, p.18]. The frame narrator of Youth who starts the story, but remains silent till nearly the end of it, plays both the roles of a narrator of part of the story and the narratee of Marlow’s narrative. As Lothe argues “this narrative variation is one of the most effective in Conrad’s fiction overall” [10, p.18]. In this way, Conrad complicates the relationship between the narrator, the narratee, and the reader.

The frame narrator introduces the frame narratees as “a director of companies, an accountant, a lawyer, Marlow, and myself” who share “the strong bond of the sea, and the fellowship of the craft” [4, p.109]. Marlow asks questions from the audience: “you fellows who listen to this yarn; and what friend would throw your years and your weariness in your face?” [4, p.117]. In another occasion he asks the audience to imagine a specific condition and judge it: “Do you see the lot of us there, putting a neat furl on the sails of that ship doomed to arrive nowhere?” [4, p. 123], or they are invited to guess something: “Do you know what the rest were busy about?” [4, p.126], and also the utterance “do you know what I thought?” [4, p.127] can be considered as another example.

3.5.2. Level

If we consider first and second-degree narrators in terms of their importance and involvement in the course of the story, four levels of voice are possible for a narrative: (1) extradiegetic-heterodeigetic: a first-degree narrator who tells a story he/she is absent from. (2) extradiegetic-homodiegetic­: a first-degree narrator who narrates his own story. (3) intradiegetic-heterodiegetic: a second-degree narrator, who is totally absent from the story he/she is telling. (4) intradiegetic-homodiegetic: a second-degree narrator who tells his/her own story [6, p.248]. Based on this classification the level of the voice in Youth matches with the second level, in which Marlow, a first-degree narrator, tells his own story. But the problem with this level is its wide coverage of information that at least he does not know some part of it. In this autobiographical form, the author integrates the “social chronicles” into the personal chronicle of the hero/narrator “that often goes beyond the field of hero’s direct knowledge” or even the narrator’s knowledge [6, p.250-51]. For instance, when Marlow uses generalised statements to describe the English crew, it is not really known that whether the members of the crew personally agree with Marlow’s opinion of them. Zdzislaw Najder discusses the importance of the introduction of Marlow into Conradian narratives. He argues that Marlow:

Was the embodiment of all that Conrad would wish to be if he were to become completely anglicized. And since that was not the case, and since he did not quite share his hero's point of view, there was no need to identify himself with Marlow, either emotionally or intellectually. Thanks to Marlow's duality, Conrad could feel solidarity with, and a sense of belonging to, England by proxy, at the same time maintaining a distance such as one has toward a creation of one's imagination. Thus, Conrad, although he did not permanently resolve his search for a consistent consciousness of self-identity, found an integrating point of view that enabled him, at last, to break out of the worst crisis of his writing career. [15, p.231]

In his discussion on the character of Marlow in Heart of Darkness, Lothe claims that in this story not only is Marlow the narrator of a narrative, but also the narratee of it. Consequently, his reception of the story as a narratee influences the way that other narratees and Conrad’s readers receive the narrative [10, p.21]. The same is true about the character of Marlow in Youth, a Narrative. The dual presence of Marlow as a young man and as a middle-aged man develops a distance between the text and its author [20, p.38]. As the author, Conrad differs from his unnamed frame narrator and Marlow in narratives in which he uses them. This does not mean that Conrad does not share Marlow’s ideas; however, Marlow, a fictional character created by Conrad, is obviously distinct from his creator [10, p.18]. Finally, using the character of Marlow in Youth, Conrad could indirectly comment on the cultural attitudes of the English. Moreover, Marlow remained an insider throughout the story [20, p.33], while Conrad, as the author was an outsider.

4. Final Remarks

The study of Joseph Conrad’s in terms of Genette’s narratology can give the readers a better understanding of the style of this great author as the nuances of his way of writing in a short story are analysed. This method will be helpful to the students of literature who want to touch upon a close reading of great authors’ structure of writing. However, the readers should not forget that the structuralist readings mostly focus on the precise analysis of the texts while they exclude the historical context. Therefore, while such readings help to reveal the underlying structures and the procedures of meaning-making, they cannot wholly reflect the relationship of the text with the world.

5. Suggestions for Further Research

Conrad’s short story can be analysed in the light of Propp’s theory of character in order to highlight the functions of the narrator and other characters in the story. A. J. Greimas’s methodology can prove effective as well. Hence, the structural units of Subject, Object, Sender, Receiver, Helper, and Opponent can be deciphered in the story by other researchers. The characters of the story, their attributes, and their action can become a research topic for researchers who are interested in Tzevetan Todorv’s grammatical analysis of a text.

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