Narrative, By Frank Lentricchia And Thomas Mclaughlin Essay

Narrative, By Frank Lentricchia And Thomas Mclaughlin Essay

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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 with the basic construction of the narrative and its ability to offer alternative realities without disrupting the dominant status quo.
The construction of narrative has a repetitive format that can be applied to any genre. 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 resolut...


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...shift occurs when humans mature. When cultural norms are understood and proper behavior established adults are able to use narratives to explore alternatives to the reality that the dominant perspective in society has established. This study creates a series of questions as to the “why,” the “how,” and “to what purpose” society has deemed these behaviors acceptable. Asking these questions allows humans to consider different parts of themselves and how they interact with the world, thus creating deeper meaning. The narrative allows for the expression of these opinions as they are presented in a fictitious world that does not interfere with the standard social norms. In short, narratives are a way to create social order and to express thoughts, feelings, and opinions that can either agree or disagree with dominant culture in a space that does threaten the status quo.  

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