Not too long ago, I shared about my love for unreliable narrators in fiction and I even came out with a list. But recently I had a discussion about these narrators and I realized some of my friends had pretty serious opinions about them as well. And not everyone loves them. Shocking!!
It was for me, at least. I mean what is there to not like in them, right? RIGHT?
Well, my so called friends (am seriously reconsidering my allies here!) gave me bunch of reasons to support, which I begrudgingly have to accept, that the unreliable narrators might not be for everyone.
But I am sure there is at least one kind of unreliable narrator that each of us like. They are not all the same!!!
Types of unreliable narrators
Yes today I am gonna talk about the kinds of unreliable narrators that we usually find in fictional world and why they are so important in their books. Ready for the ride?
Unreliable narrators that are naïve
Okay not totally naïve but they can’t help it. For some reason they are not fully aware of what is happening to/around them, maybe by their own doing or not.
For example, Jack from the Room was inside the shed for years before he was broken out and seeing the world with the innocence of a young boy is definitely not reliable.
Unreliable narrators whose perception is misleading
There are many characters that fall into this category in the recent times. Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, for instance, cannot be taken at his face value, as he on the Asperger’s / Autistic spectrum and his understanding of things is quite literal and lacks depth.
Patrick Peoples from The Silver Linings Playbook and Charlie from the Perks of being a wallpaper have repressed memories, while Rachel from the girl on the train has been under the influence of alcohol almost the entire time of the story.
And these books largely depend on these narrators and otherwise would have been another run of the mill novel.
Unreliable narrators that hold back information
Omitting to state the facts is also kinda lying, of course. But Eva does that so well in We need to talk about Kevin. The whole books is written in the form of letters to her estranged husband and she talks about everything but why Kevin did what he did (mass shooting at his school) and if she did enough to prevent that from happening.
I recently read the Woman in the Window for my book club and found that Dr Anna Fox holds back a lot from others and the reader as well. Well, on a happier note that backfires right at her and that plays so well into holding the suspense to the story.
Unreliable narrators that outright lie and manipulate
These are my favorite kind of unreliable narrators!
Man, they toy with us and mislead us perfectly into their trap without breaking a sweat. Take Patrick from American Psycho, he is suave, well read and smart and he commits gruesome murders with a finesse (or not!). His unreliability is the only thing that left us questioning the reality at the end.
I love Gone Girl and I adore Gillian Flynn‘s writing and her unreliable characters (yes there are many). Nick and Amy seem sincere and innocent until we start unraveling their traps and deceit. I mean talk about the plot twists these unreliable narrators provide.
Yes, they misrepresent facts, break our trusts and some time lie to our faces even. But so what?
I mean what narrator is truly objective and trustworthy! They all talk about the things they believe are true. So what if these narrators add a bit of bias, color the truth or even hold stuff back from the reader? They are as amazing as their lying conniving selves they can be, to me!
Let us chat
Do you like unreliable narrators? Who are your favorites? What are your favorite types of unreliable narrators? Let us talk.