The nature of narrative has many aspects

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Last updated: April 10, 2019

It seems human life is structured within narrative form, as central to the human existence is the concept of language, and more precisely the story. All narratives present a story, a progression of events which involve characters.

Hence, we can see a narrative as a form of communication which presents a sequence of events caused and experienced by characters. Narrative has affected the way we live our lives since the very beginning of theory. That is to say, it has been with us since the Greek Presocrats, and has been intertwined with the human existence.The narrative takes on many forms, from the fictional or non fictional novel, to history, and politics, to films, and to psychological pertinence. Human life, encompassing everything from perception and sensations, as well as achievements and defeats, can be seen as a persistent endeavor to develop or redevelop significant human instants, as well as lifetimes, from the often immeasurable or supposedly indisputable narrative scenes within which we find ourselves (MacIntyre, 1977).

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Here, humans are not egotistical individuals or machines, but creative storytellers.The narrative form accumulates experiences and actions at the individual as well as the group level. It is precisely narratives that provide a foundation to erect and sustain or to demolish the relationships between individuals, individuals in a group and between groups. Deliberations of the narrative form, express the idea of being human. In fact, to live life, is to live a story, we are essentially living within our own record of existence, our own narration.

Similar to a narrative, the complete sum of all parts of human life is bound by the beginning of birth and the ending of life.It is not qualified as a single instant, but as an elongated set of remembrance towards the foundational past, familiarity of the lived present, and anticipation en route of the future. As Hayden White (1990) illustrates the “content” of the narrative “form” asserts the rationality of any social order dominated by central hierarchies and state power; the authority of narrative as a representation of “reality” depends upon its acknowledged “realism”.

What is more, this notion of the storied life amalgamates the conventional narrative concepts of storyteller, characters and audience, into its essence.Undeniably, our capacity to tell stories and write literature depends on the construction of life, experiences we’ve lived, and those who are willing to listen. More importantly as Carr (1986) exemplifies, “our own retentional and protentional movements function like a storyteller in that they select those elements of experience to render significant, just as our minds chose to remember or forget significant or insignificant occurrences”. Indeed, simply by being in the world only some ‘things’ will be emphasized and understood as being, just as in the narrative.For human beings, language is the most powerful and essential tool possessed, and as such, the narrative, be it literary text or historical text serves as a record of understanding.

Specifically, a man may have a concept but the only way of addressing its possible worth is to articulate it using the structure of language. He is then finally able to grasp the substance of the idea. So not even the author knows what an idea is until it is clearly expressed in words, a quality which makes language the essence of understanding, and thus, narration the essence of humanity.Language is also ritual practice, it is a tradition, and this convention establishes the structuring of words, spelling and grammar; hence it is tradition that forms the basis of communal understanding, so the erosion of tradition is the erosion of communal understanding. Our verbalization of the storied life gives further intelligibility to this explanation. When we speak to each other we are living and telling stories. These stories, including the narrative contexts in which they are situated and verbalized, assist the process of language to ascertain stability.

Because of the nature of culture, predictability and irregularity always coexist. In this sense, narratives, and the ontological systemization that it is a basis for, are obligatory conditions for our capability to eloquently address ourselves to each other. Literature lures us into relationships, those between writers and readers, between characters and readers, between all of these and the world, between readers and other readers.

Such relationships have the potential to change us and are fraught with ethical considerations.In contrast to deconstruction, which views language and texts as nothing but the free play of signifiers, in narrative, we not only recollect and testify to our own experiences, we replicate and restore them. Through narrative, the meaning of experience is reorganized and reconstructed, both for narrators as well as the audiences. In telling our narratives, we are rehearsing, redefining, and regenerating our personal lives.

It is the whole entity which we are, because the self is what we believe ourselves to be, as Descartes (1648) proclaimed cognito ergo sum – “I think, therefore I am”.Furthermore, this view is exemplified by Bahktin (1930) who stated that “all individual expression is ultimately the product of various voices that are linked to one another through the socially constituted fabric of language. We learn our language by assimilating the voices of others, and we speak back to our community of peers through re-externalized modes of discourse. This philosophy [is] known as dialogics… ” Furthermore, the narrative form is inevitably tied to moral principles in personal growth, thought, and action.

This is undoubtedly witnessed in the stories that arise from experiences of oppression. The elemental notion underlying the narrative, or story, is that it is the ingredient to understanding the self, society, and their history. The moralities into which we are brought up are not so much rules or ideologies as they are collections of stories about human potential and archetypes for action. These stories are said to reveal ourselves -who we are, where we have been, and where we are going, consequently positioning ourselves within the larger scheme of things, the big picture.Consequently this is witnessed through the voices of the oppressed.

These narratives arise out of knowledge of dehumanization. Such narratives do not have “boundaries of race, politics, religious influence, gender, age, and class, and is all inclusive of stories which have arisen responding to the Holocaust, totalitarianism, racism, sexism and the like” (Rose, W, 1994). Perhaps the single most pertinent objective in narratives -the literature of the oppressed is the need and right to tell one’s story, his/her own, as well as that of the whole community.This is implied of course in all of literature, but is more urgent in that of the oppressed because that right has been denied. It is clear that from childhood we are brought up with stories, narratives teach us how to live. Born and raised in stories, they answer all the big questions in life. The literature of the oppressed covers a great variety of writing and writers and historical contexts, and tries to answer as many questions as possible, for oneself as well as for the audience.

Importantly, these stories allow not only the right for storytelling, but also its power.It enables the teller to change things within him/herself as well as within the listeners and on a larger scale even bring about societal change. Most of all, storytelling has the power to restore, and rectify that which has been broken. Elie Weisel remarks in his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, “…

I have tried to keep memory alive … I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices. ” Thus the power of the narrative is emphasized through the persistence of human memory. The narrative engages us because it is rooted.

It tangles itself in the status quo, the median, that which is real to us, the concrete notions, and the individual significant moments of the human experience. If it often seeks the transcendent and universal, it is always by way of the immanent and particular. If it desires to speak to all humanity, it does so by telling us the story of one or two particular human beings. “It thereby starts where we ourselves live, with characters in a context faced with decisions. It does not really matter if the characters masquerade as animals or aliens, or if the context is distant in time or place.All stories are about us or someone who is somehow like us” (Carr, 1986). Moreover, as we try to account for ourselves, and our actions in the form of a story, we seek to lay claim to the role of story teller.

We desire the command of the storyteller, and this quest that we embark upon, is part of the development of the self in experience, thought and action (Carr. D, 1986). Whether testifying in a law court, making a speech on one’s thesis, arguing with friends, or speaking with one’s self, the story must take into account the whole of the life of the story teller.In the narrative of life, one can play any given role or multiple at once. That is to say one may be the narrator, a character, or a member of the listening audience.

Either way, the form of the narrative allows for a prognosis of future events, not just a recantation of a series of occurrences. In this sense, narrative is more than a simple fable. On the contrary, narrative is fundamental to human lifetime and, indeed, human life. In their everyday action and experience, and for the duration of their lives, humans and as such, mortals live in and through narratives.As MacIntyre (1972) elicits, “It is because we all live out narratives in our lives.

.. that the form of narrative is appropriate for understanding the actions of others.

” When we objectively look at ourselves in this way, as part of a story, there is a chance to compare and contrast ourselves and place ourselves in relation to other stories. Indeed, we are empathetic towards other stories because we, ourselves are storytellers, and have been such since the beginnings of existence. We are thus, able to place ourselves in the stories of others (Turner, M. 1996).These stories will not only be long-term narratives, such as that of the creation, for instance, but also fictitious stories of other people. By addressing the rhetorical questions of who am I? And where am I meant to be? Narratives allow us to further develop the societal fibres spoken of by Giambattista Vico.

“Here, characters in a narrative may represent… themselves to each other and to themselves as unfinished autobiographies or narratives (Gare, A. 1996). Therefore to comprehend the human being it is first necessary to typify each person in terms of the narratives they live through.Because literature also absorbs the whole person, it extracts a response from every division of human beings-mental, spiritual, and physical force.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1973) argues that the reader ought to “give himself generously” to a work, bringing to a reading “the gift of his whole person, with his passions, prepossessions, his sympathies, his sexual temperament, and his scale of values. ” In this way one is able to connect with the narrative, become one with the story, as the story envelops the audience’s lives, the audience may in fact be living that life.A narrative is able store experiences for consideration and evaluation at a later time. It holds reality through its characters, actions, metaphors, thus allowing us the prospect of evaluation and reflection over our own experiences.

Additionally, the narrative not only experiences lives for us, and with us, as well as being the story of the experiences we’ve had but it also plays a large part in psychology. “Narrative psychology” refers to a strand within the scientific field of psychology which is interested in the “storied nature of human conduct” (Sarbin, 1986).That is to say, how human beings deal with experience by constructing stories based upon their lives, and listening to the stories of others, which ironically emulate their lives. Psychologists studying narrative are challenged by the notion that human activity and experience are filled with “meaning” and that these stories, serve the purpose of logical arguments and formulations, and are the means by which that importance is communicated, within the sphere of humanity.Sigmund Freud, largely followed this doctrine in his case studies, formulating ideas and diagnoses through peoples own narratives.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the narrative has permeated even widest of topics. Peter Beilharz (2002) shows that globalization, a subject which is very much a part of the lives of every human being, is an economic and political narrative. Drawing upon narrative form, it appeals to particular trends.

Such things as the transnational presence of giant corporations de-regulation, changing industrial relations and uneven economic development.Walter Benjamin, in his “the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction” exemplifies the need for narrative in the modern society. He argues that there has been a shift in attitude towards art as a result of the introduction of the mechanical means of reproduction, and that this is a good thing because it democratizes and politicizes art.

He contends that the spectator has become a participant or collaborator who joins the author in deciding meaning. Therefore art is a success when it allows for critical contemplation by the reader.Working with a tradition of thought stretching from the very beginnings of contemplation, it has been demonstrated that narrative is an essential human need, as it is deeply seeded within humanity. Human beings are inescapably creatures of thought.

As Descartes and many cognitive psychologists today agree, human beings are unique through their self-consciousness, their use of language and rationality. This sense permeates everything we do, including our works of the imagination.Such works, powerful and influential, they compel us to make significant enquiries.

They are blossoming gifts through which we can conduct some of our most important conversations about what we ought to be and do. And there is no essential difference between the stories of told in the form of a narrative and the stories of our lives. We are each characters in our own story and in each other’s stories. Healthy stories, as we have heard, can “make us live right. “

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