Film and narration: Two versions of lolita

Robert Stam

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


As Wayne Booth points out in The Rhetoric of Fiction (1983), we react to narrators as we do to persons, finding them likeable or repulsive, wise or foolish, fair or unfair. Narrators vary widely on a broad spectrum, not only in terms of likeability but also in terms of reliability. Some are honest brokers, while others are pathological liars. On a scale of trustworthiness, narrators range from those who are almost completely suspect (such as Jason Compson in The Sound and the Fury [1929]) to those who are more or less reliable (Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby [1925], Bras Cubas in Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas [1880]) to those who serve as dramatized spokespersons for the implied author and whose values conform to the norms of the text (Joseph Conrad's Marlow in Heart of Darkness [1902]). What interests me here is a particular kind of narration, to wit unreliable narration. The modern period has been especially fond of 1) changing narrators and 2) unreliable narrators. Changing narrators alter their discourse and ideas as they narrate; they mutate before our eyes. This trait is especially true of the Bildungsroman or novel of development (for example, Great Expectations [1851]); part of the plot, in such novels, is not just what happens but how the narrator changes as a result of what happens, for example when Pip learns about the true source of his fortune.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTwentieth-Century American Fiction on Screen
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780511610950
ISBN (Print)0521542308, 9780521834445
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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