Variations of Narrative Techniques within a Story: Guillermo Samperio “She Lived in a Story” & Eguardo Vega Yunque, The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle
When anything is created or made, it must be built or constructed; nothing just appears or pops out of nowhere. Whether it’s a house that must be made out of bricks, or a piece of clothing that’s made out of cloth, or a car that is made out of pieces of metal bolted together, they are all built out of something to come to the end product. A story is no different than any of these material things; a story also must be built and constructed in order to reach the final product. A story uses a couple of different materials though than what is used to create a house or a pair of jeans; a story uses what are called narrative techniques and there are more ways than one to use them. A story can have more than one narrative technique and can even use one technique in different ways throughout the story as Guillermo Samperio does in his narrative, “She Lived in a Story” and the author of The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle, Eguardo Vega Yunque, does in his. Both of these authors took full advantage of the narrative techniques that are available and used them in their stories to create unique narratives that are unorthodox in their own ways and not usually seen. The end result is two, one of a kind yet exciting narratives.
The first narrative, Guillermo Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story” is about a man, who he named after himself, who is writing a story about a girl, who is writing a story about a man, and by the end of the story, the two characters meet and accept their fate together. This is a great clash of reality and imagination meeting as one; both are made up characters, one made up by the author, and the other created by the character created by the author. This video is a fun example of as creator meeting its character to help understand what happens in “She Lived in a Story,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzAtKiT-v3U (Yoda2245).
Aside from the story being a representation of the combining of two different worlds, imaginary and what we perceive to be real, it is also a great example of focalization, collective focalization to be exact. “Without thinking about it, he decides to move closer; with this movement of his legs, he finally achieves lucidity. He stops next to me; in silence, accepting our fatal destiny, he takes my hand and I am willing,” (Samperio 62). This is a quote, the final quote, from Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story” which depicts a very important aspect of focalization.
There are a couple of different types of focalizations, within the story and as possibilities to chose from while writing a story, but the one being portrayed by this quote is collective focalization, which is when there is focalization through a group of characters. The quote depicts the two characters of the story, characters that should have never met because they existed in two different stories, discovering one another only to see what fate has in store for them. Sadly enough fate had a fatal ending for both of the characters, but I believe that it was the perfect ending for a story that was only about stories. Collective focalization isn’t the only form of focalization in the narrative nor is it the main type of focalization, but it brings a clever and a simple end to the story by utilizing the viewpoints of a group of people rather than a single person’s viewpoint as we saw throughout the rest of the story. It’s an odd occurrence though when the two characters meet; it’s as though something has drawn them together, and they have this extreme feeling of trust for one another which could be considered odd since they’ve never met before. I use the word extreme to describe their trust because without a word, she accepts his hand and tells him that she is willing to die; it is their fatal destiny. Since this is collective focalization, we are seeing two different viewpoints in the end of this story, and they are both very comfortable with one another regardless of the fact that they have never met before. Samperio says that the male character has reached “lucidity” and the word lucid means a clear perception or understanding. While we are reading this, you can feel the freedom and the relief and the sense of confidence he has walking towards her to accept his fate, and same goes for Ofelia when she reaches out and takes his hand. He also made these moves without thinking; somehow he knew that it was what he had to do and she knew that it’s what she had to do. All in all, I thought having all the characters meet at the end of the story was the perfect ending to a story about multiple made up characters; it was their fate all along even if we didn’t think it was possible.
As I stated previously, collective focalization isn’t the only type of focalization that was used in the narrative; Samperio continued to show his individuality and uniqueness while writing a story by throwing in a couple of different viewpoints into the mix. Another type of focalization that Samperio takes advantage of in his short story is hypothetical focalization. Samperio writes about a man that he named after himself that creates a story about a girl named Ofelia; he even goes as far as using the exact title of his story as the title of the story about Ofelia. Guillermo’s character, Guillermo, starts the story off with Ofelia reminiscing back to a wet and dreary night when she was walking through the streets and felt a weird vibe. The weird vibe that she is feeling is hypothetical focalization; she feels as though someone, something, or a group of things are watching her but she has no idea what they or it is. “Although it was impossible to ascertain from which direction, Ofelia sensed that she was being watched. On the corner of Francisco Sosa and Ave Maria she stopped while a car turned right. She took advantage of this instant to look behind her, thinking that she would discover who was watching her” (Samperio 58). Hypothetical focalization is when the viewpoint of a hypothetical observer or a virtual spectator comes into play in the story. These eyes that Ofelia feels on her, this mysterious something that is watching her is that hypothetical observer, and the hypothetical observer is the reader or the audience watching what’s going on. The audience is in the darkness so she cannot see that they are there, but she knows they are there and can feel them watching her. We as the readers and the audience to the story that she is telling, have our own view point to exactly what is happening to her and it comes into play in this part of the story. We get to see with our own eyes what is happening to her and how she is reacting by rubbing her hands together, walking faster, and looking into the trees to see if she could find who or what was watching her. We are able to feel the vulnerability and the fear that she does as her body shudders while walking through the darkness; we witness what she does. I agree with the way Samperio brings this type of focalization into the story as well; the whole story is about different viewpoints of different characters so why not add in the viewpoints of his readers and audience as well? It was a very clever story through and through, whether it was the titles or names of the characters or the way he switched from viewpoint to viewpoint with different focalizations; an interesting story indeed.
Another unorthodox novel in a sense is Eguardo Vega Yunque’s, The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. This novel is untraditional because of its large amounts of dialogue, its language, and pretty much what the whole story is about. The language is not something you normally read in a novel; there are a lot of cuss words and the pages are filled with slang and the diction consists of how you and I would talk if we were having a conversation on the street. The novel is about a guy who lives a life that no one would ask for; everything seems to be going wrong at the same time, he loses his girlfriend and his job and is the farthest thing from being happy, and to top it all off he has a very small penis. The whole novel we follow Omaha throughout his poor pathetic life and talk about how small his lower half is and how he goes about fixing it, but besides being a novel that breaks the norm, like Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story,” Yunque’s “Omaha Bigelow” uses narrative techniques that all novelists use as well.
“When Flaquita returned to the projects after a night out with the girls, she was smiling contentedly. She had declined a visit to a male strip club after dinner. Instead, she returned home to read her son’s play” (Yunque 71). This would be a good example of focalization, fixed focalization to be exact. Fixed focalization is when everything is presented to us by one focalizer, one narrator, one point of view; it’s consistent, which is exactly what this novel is. We have one narrator throughout the novel that brings us through the life of Omaha Bigelow and all the people that surround him. This quote, for example, is about his mother Flaquita. We’re watching her from the narrator’s eyes and we only know what she is doing and how she is feeling because of what the narrator tells us. We only know that she is feeling content that she did not go out to the strip club because he told us that she’s feeling that way. We only know that she skipped out on the strip club after dinner was because she wanted to come home and read her son’s play; she didn’t tell us that. The reason this is fixed focalization is because no matter the situation, or the character, the same narrator is telling us what they are doing and how they are feeling. What’s happening doesn’t matter; we are seeing everything from one consistent focalizer. Even though both of these novels aren’t exactly what we’re used to reading, they both use very traditional techniques in their writing that make it easy for us to read and understand what’s going on in their novels while trying to keep us locked in and interested throughout the story as well.
Focalization is definitely a main part of both of these narrative; the authors take advantage of the different viewpoints that they can use in order to give their audience different ways to view the story. A story can be told and understood differently through the eyes and out of the mouth of different characters, so choosing the right type of focalization is critical when writing a narrative. The way these two authors chose their focalizations and how to use them in their stories created a unique twist that was exciting and fun to follow as we go through each story. Focalization isn’t the only narrative technique that either of these authors uses in their stories though; they both use something that is called narrative situation. As was stated in the beginning, a story needs to be built, and just like a house, it takes more than one type of material to build it. Having a story with only one type of narrative technique is like having a house with no windows or doors; incomplete. Luckily for us, neither of these narratives are incomplete.
Aside from being a great example of variations of focalization, Guillermo Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story” is also a healthy example of different types of narrative situation. A narrative situation is described as the patterns or arrangements of narrative features, like who does what and when and why; basically it’s story telling. Throughout Samperio’s story there are a couple of different characters and a couple of different viewpoints that we have to follow in order to understand the story, there are a couple of different forms of narrative situations as well. One main form of narrative situation that is used throughout the story is the authorial narrative. “During the evening hours, the writer Guillermo Segovia gave a lecture at the Preparatory Academy of Iztapalapa. The students of esthetics, under the direction of the young poet Israel Castellanos, were enthusiastic about the detailed presentation by Segovia” (Samperio 54). This would be the first two lines of the whole story and a perfect example of an authorial narrative. An authorial narrative is told by a narrator that is not in the story, doesn’t pop up as a character in the story and his sole purpose is to narrate what is happening to the characters in the story, which is why this first line is such a good example. The narrator is doing his job by just dictating to us what the character, Guillermo Segovia, is doing; he gives lectures at the Preparatory Academy and a good description of how the students feel about the presentation. The narrator never enters the story as a character either; he is just there to explain to us the events of the story. The narrator doesn’t only explain the events that are happening though, he explains everything that is happening to the characters in the story to give us a full and round understanding for the story; for example he explains to us the nervousness that Segovia feels when a student questions his work. We also get a very descriptive view of what is going on in the story because we are seeing it from the “eyes above” if you will. What I mean by this is that the authorial narrator, the narrator that isn’t a character in the story, sees everything that’s happening in the story because he is not a character. A character in the story would only see what they see and not what any other character sees, so we wouldn’t receive a complete understanding of all the events and happenings in the story, we would only see what that character sees. With the authorial narrator though, we see and understand the view points from all the characters.
One of the reasons this story is so interesting is because of all the changes in the structure as we read the story; the changes in focalization is one example and the different narrative situations both help to add a sense of excitement and a feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen next. The narrative situation changes a little bit when Segovia starts writing the story about Ofelia, for more than one reason; a different type of narrative situation settles in. “She became a little frightened, and instinctively began to walk faster. She rubbed her hands together, looked toward the trees in front of her and then all the way down the avenue that faded into the foggy mist” (Samperio 58). The narrative situation has changed into a figural narrative during this part of Segovia’s “She Lived in a Story” which is when we see the story through the characters eyes, but this isn’t the only reason that it’s changed from an authorial narrative. Segovia has turned into the narrator of the story because it is now his story that he is writing, and for the narrative to be an authorial narrative, the narrator cannot be a character in the story. That’s one reason that the narrative situation had to change, but the way that we are now viewing the story also has changed; we now see and feel what Ofelia sees and feels as we go on through the rest of the story. In this quote she is walking down the dark street with this feeling that there are eyes upon her and we get to view the story in her eyes now. We get to feel the fear and shivers that she receives from having to walk down this road all by herself and the regret she feels because she didn’t let those people give her a ride so she wouldn’t be alone. We go through Segovia’s rendition of “She Lived in a Story” through the eyes of Ofelia and follow her wherever she goes and abide by her decisions, although she is not the narrator. Segovia is still the narrator, but he has put us in the mind of his character, Ofelia. Even until the end of the story when the two characters meet, we still are in the mind of Ofelia and go along with her when she decides to take her characters hand and accept their fatal fate together. It’s an interesting change in pace of the story that keeps the interest and excitement there while reading and much better than having just one point of view or one narrator throughout the story.
Both the Samperio and the Yunque story have unique differences but also share some similarities in their story telling. The Samperio piece differs from “Omaha Bigelow” (and most other pieces) because of all the variations of all the narrative techniques that he uses. As you can see, I gave an example of two of two of each narrative technique that I brought up about his narrative. Yunque uses only one of each narrative technique that he chose to use, but where they find their commonality is that each piece uses the same technique. It would have been a little different for Yunque to go with the same format that Saperio went with because his story is a great deal longer than Samperio’s which was only about six or so pages. This made it easier for Samperio to constantly switch viewpoints and narrators and ending it abruptly without completely losing his whole audience by the end of it.
Yunque uses the same type of narrative situation that Samperio uses for most of his story, an authorial narrative. This again is when there is one person dictating the story and that one person’s role in the story is just to be the narrator, he or she does not appear in the story, all they do is narrate. This was a good idea on Yunque’s part because the idea of having an outside man telling the whole story about this person’s (Omaha Bigelow) life eliminates any bias we would get by listening to the story being told by that actual person or someone actually involved. For example, if Omaha told the story, he might have exaggerated about his penis size a little bit. He might have admitted that it was a little small but might have never admitted that it was small enough to have magic spells casted on it to enlarge it. His feelings play a big role in the story but would have been somewhat different if he was telling us how he felt instead of an outsider. He might have left things out that he didn’t want us to know or stretched the truth a tad because he was uncomfortable. With the authorial narrative, we have an outside narrator that knows how every character is feeling and what everyone is doing so we don’t miss a beat and don’t suffer deception. We get the whole picture, every detail, from an authorial narrator as we do from this quote,
“Omaha Bigelow was high as a kite. Having consumed ten
Rolling Rocks, taken no less than twelve tokes of several joints
Laced with a number of enhancements, and having innosed a
Line of Coca Cola at the Tenth Street apartment of his friend,
Richard Rentacar, the leader of Carsick, the punk rock band in which
He played bass, he was feeling no pain” (Yunque 1).
Right here we get the whole picture of what’s going on with Omaha Bigelow right now. Every ounce of detail from what he took or whose house he’s taking all these things in is being fed to the audience. He is so high right now; he can’t even feel a thing, meaning that he would not be able to tell us what is happening to him because he is so messed up right at the moment. We have the authorial narrator to help us in these situations that Omaha would never be able to communicate with us in. The authorial narrator paints a picture for us depicting exactly what is happening to Omaha and I am able to picture exactly where he is, and how he looks, and how he’s feeling because of the narrator. That’s the best thing about having an outside narrator that never appears in the story, he has to picture the story in his head as well in order to tell it, so we’re going to see a picture that is already created in the narrators head and much easier to understand than if a character was trying to put their thoughts together to make an easy connection to the audience. The narrator has already established the connection or the common ground; neither he nor the audience is in the narrative.
Not every house is built the same, not every pair of pants or shirt fits the same way, and not ever car drives the same, so you can’t expect nor would you want every story to be written the same. There are houses that are similar to others and excreta but no two are alike, just like these two stories have their similarities with narrative structure and techniques but they are far from being the same story. They are both unique in their own ways, even if it means using the same narrative techniques to tell their stories. The attract the audience in their own ways and bring life to their characters in their own ways but possibly use the same base, meaning using the same narrative technique but different variations of it. Not every story is the same but they can share the same foundation and turn out completely different, as portrayed by each of these two unique but similar stories. And ending on a good note, this video is a fun explanation of what I’m trying to say; a story can share the same foundation or base by utilizing the same exact narrative techniques but be completely different stories. In this video, even though both girls are sharing the same pants, the same base, they are two completely different people. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qIpxtjs99U (ACorby123).
ACorby123. youtube. 30 October 2009. 2 July 2011 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qIpxtjs99U>.
Jahn, Manfred. 2005. Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative. English Department, University of Cologne.
Samperio, Guillermo. “She Lived in a Story.” New Writing From Mexico (1992): 54-62.
Yoda2245. youtube. 30 May 2011. 2 July 2011 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzAtKiT-v3U>.
Yunque, Eguardo Vega. The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2004.