Omniscient Narrators as Characters

In both Danielewski’s The Familiar and Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rainforest readers are exposed to entities that act as (seemingly) omniscient narrators and characters at the same time. In The Familiar this narrator, or rather narrators (or possibly just one narrator? Hard to say without all the information), comes in the form of narcons 3, 9, and 27.

Now,I will admit, calling the narcons narrators is being a little generous. Usually they are simply correcting information mistakenly remembered by the characters, or adding a bit of poetic flair (narcon 3’s specialty, it seems). They are implied simply to be spectators to the plot like the readers. However, there are moments where the narcons provide information that is unavailable to either the characters in the book or the readers. For example, in the unmarked intermission on what should be page 576, Narcon 27 (the factual narcon) and Narcon 3 (the artistic narcon) both give us very detailed information about the death of Mrs. Goolsend. Not only do they tell us how and when she died, they are also able to tell us that her last thoughts were of a painting she had seen in 1988. By giving the readers this information, the narcons are acting both as omniscient narrators and characters.

We meet a similar entity in Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rainforest, called only The Ball. The Ball is a strange little orb-y guy (or gal?) attached to Kazumasa, who is the main character. The Ball, like the narcons, is unable to interact directly with any of the characters. Unlike the narcons though, it does have a physical manifestation that the other characters can see (which may actually be true of the narcons, but the narcons aren’t aware…? I don’t know, man. 26 more books). In fact, it is explicitly stated that Kazumasa takes great comfort in the constant presence of The Ball, calling it his constant companion and friend. He even grieves when [SPOILER!] The Ball disintegrates and ‘dies’ [END SPOILER]. Even though The Ball is narrating a large part of the story, even parts of the story that pertain to other characters outside its immediate sphere of interaction, it is also functioning as an essential character inside of the story it is narrating.


It’s certainly interesting to see omniscient narrators participate in the story they’re telling, if a little strange.




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