Essay On The Construction Of Narrative

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Narrative has a large role in shaping and maintaining society. In J. Hillis Miller’s chapter “Narrative” in Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin’s book Critical Terms for Literary Study, J. Hillis Miller argues that narrative is present in all stages of human life from early childhood development and into adulthood. It is used in early childhood development to teach adolescents how to tell a story and make them aware of what is socially acceptable behavior. However, socially acceptable behavior does not necessarily need to be learned as an adult. Instead, adults use narratives in order to fill a sense of lacking and to find meaning and purpose in life. Miller suggests that narration is a way for humans to make sense of experience and life…show more content…
It is comprised of three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. The formation of these three parts helps to create the plot which Miller described as “the sequential structure of events” (Miller 71). Miller writes, “We want repetition in the form of many stories that are recognizably variations on the same formula. If children want nursery rhymes and bed time stories over and over in exact word-for-word order, they quickly learn even before the age of five or six the rules for proper story telling” (Miller 70). While characters and setting may change, the basic construction of the narrative remains the same. There always needs to be a beginning that contains an inciting incident to start the chain of events thus creating the middle. The end of the story is the resolution where meaning is created and the reader is left to take away morals and messages that the author is trying to convey, such as those in children’s bedtime stories. In something as simple as a bedtime story to a complex adult novel, the narrative outlines a series of events caused by good or bad behavior resulting in consequences which emphasize a moral code. Miller writes, “If we need narratives to give sense to our world, the shape of that sense is a fundamental carrier of the sense. Such repetition perhaps reassures by the reencounter with the form that the narrative gives to life” (Miller 70). The repetitive series…show more content…
He writes, “The human capacity to tell stories is one way men and women collectively build a significant and orderly world around themselves. With fiction we investigate, perhaps invent, the meaning of human life” (Miller 69). Humans use narratives to understand the world around them by using it to reflect appropriate social norms and standards. However, humans also use narratives in order to question the current social climate. These questions allow for the exploration of alternative viewpoints to the dominant culture by providing a medium where opinions can be expressed and scenarios worked out without the consequences of social upheaval and disorder. The creation of disorder in narratives is condoned only because they are works of fiction and are not seen as fact which means they are not a direct threat to dominant cultural norms. With the flexibility of alternate viewpoints comes the expression of different parts of oneself to which Miller responds, “We need fictions in order to experiment with possible selves and to learn to take our places in the real world, to play our parts there” (Miller 69). Being able to view archetypical characters, such as the femme fatale, or scenarios, such as post-apocalyptic crises, allows readers to investigate
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