Narrative Perspective

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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The narrative perspective of a work has a great impact on the reader’s view of the author’s themes as seen in “The Death of Ivan Ilych” by Leo Tolstoy, “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin and “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. All three stories have a narrator that waves a finger at the reader throughout the story, forcing a belief on them. It is the narrative’s interpretation of the theme that the reader ends up having in their mind, not to be confused with the interpretation of the author.

        “The Death of Ivan Ilych” is a prime example of the impact a narrator can have on a reader. The reader has no choice but to feel the way the narrator tells you to and to interpret the story as the narrator sees fit. You’re not allowed to like Ivan’s wife, it is utterly impossible. On the same lines, you have to feel sorry for Ivan Ilych.

The man is doomed to die, with no real friends and an atrocious excuse for a loving wife. The way the story is structured illustrates this point clearly, had the story ended with Ivan’s death, we would not feel the same pity we end up feeling for this poor man that has friends more concerned with their bridge game than his death and a wife worried about how much money she is going to receive from his demise. However, the way the friends are shown and his wife we pity Ivan Ilych and the life he’s lived. “Ivan’s Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”(1509) Here the narrator tries to scare the reader into believing they will suffer the same fate as Ivan, since most of us lead simple and ordinary lives just like Ivan Ilych.