Narrative and Identity

Essay, 2009

15 Pages, Grade: 2,7


I. Narrative Identity (3-5 pages; 30/100)

Explain the complexities of narratives and identities by discussing the concepts of the etic and emic AND/OR (un)reliability in “The Lady with the Red Shoes” OR The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

(Un)reliability in the The Lady with the Red Shoes

“Unreliability is an effect that most readers intuitively recognize.” (Nünning, 91). In The Lady with the Red Shoes the reader also can notice some markers that are typical of an unreliable narrator. But before going over to the complexities of the topic of unreliability with reference to narratives and identity, first a short overview of Ita Daly`s story follows.

The Lady with the Red Shoes, written by Ita Daly, was published by Poolberg press in 1980. The short story is narrated from the perspective of an elderly, typical English gentleman from Dublin, who talks about the North of Ireland, his life, his preferences and aversions and his traditional Easter holidays which he always passes in North Mayo, in the McAndrews Hotel. Right in the beginning of the story he talks fascinated about the Irish scenery and the landscape of the North of Ireland so that he frames the story by giving special information about his home country and the surrounding. Since his narration furthermore delivers some indicators of his personality the reader gets the impression that the old man belongs to the upper class what also gets obvious through the fact that he does not apologize to be a “snob”. This confident look on his self is furthermore a sign, that he is very critical with himself. But especially this “explicit self-characterization” (Nünning, 101) is a sign for the unreliability of the narrator that shall be discussed in the following part.

His short holiday at McAndrews is an old family tradition started by his grandfather. Normally going there with his wife Judith, this time he spends the Easter days alone, because Judith was ill. The days at McAndrews pass as the old man is used to it and the reader can easily understand that he has a special routine there that he loves very much. People working there, like Murphy the waiter, know the old man from Dublin and are helpful for him to pass his holidays as he does every year. So, again everything goes its old and well known routine at McAndrews and everything happens in silent harmony and without any disturbances – exactly as the old man wants it and is used to it. But on his last dinner at the hotel he gets confronted with an unusual situation that breaks the whole customs. During his dinner he is disturbed by a harsh female voice. This lady has a special appearance – it is an appearance that usually does not fit to McAndrews and its surrounding. Her clothing, her way of interaction and her behavior are the complete opposite of what people at the hotel are used to. So, the old man begins to make speculations and assumptions about the lady with the red shoes and pink clothes. According to her accent he considers that the lady must be from America, especially from New York. But nevertheless he is not really content with his assumptions because he recognizes something special in her tone. So, sitting in a short distance to the lady he goes on with producing prejudices about her and he comes to the end that she must be from there, from Mayo, because he notices a special connotation in her voice that reminds him of the accent of Mayo. This he especially becomes aware of as he follows her into the sitting room where she smokes and gazes out of the window. The old man again speculates that she may be looking at some village children who are gathering some seaweed to sell it. Like a flash it comes to his mind that she must have been one of those children in her past and that she left Mayo in order to live a better life in America. He further assumes that she came back to Mayo to impress the people and to show them that she became a lady and that she now is cultured and sophisticated. The old man thinks about getting into contact with the lady but then he leaves her alone and goes to his room, thinking about how much the world is changing and that soon nothing will be as it was. But for him the place of McAndrews and his new “heroine” – the lady with the red shoes – will stay forever. Directly speaking to the reader now, he by some means wants to make sure, that his story about the lady is no fiction by declaring “I know what I know”.

In order to analyze Ita Daly`s story on the basis of unreliability and unreliable narration the investigations of Ansgar F. Nünning will be helpful. As the scientist himself remarks, it is hard to come to a clear definition on unreliability because there are lots of theories that do not clarify what unreliability is and that do not evidently differentiate between the certain markers and signals of unreliability (cf. Nünning, 93). Nevertheless there are of course special “rules” that should make it easier to find out whether a narrator and its narrative are reliable or not. In his text Reconceptualizing Unreliable Narration Nünning refers to Phelan and Martin (1999) (cf. Nünning, 94) who – according to Nünning – have developed the “most systematic and useful” scheme for finding out whether a narrator is reliable or not. With reference to this scheme a narrator is likely to carry out three functions in order to be titled as “unreliable”. The first of these functions is that the narrator reports on other character, facts and events, secondly the narrator evaluates or regards the other character, facts and events and the third function is fulfilled with the interpretation of the character, facts and events through the narrator (cf. Nünning, 94). Furthermore Nünning shares the opinion that unreliability in a narrative is a literary effect that is also established or found out through the interpretation and the reading strategies of a reader. While reading a story the reader tries to determine doubts and other markers that hint to a certain discrepancy of the text. So, by some means the reader projects the plot and especially the narrator to ordinary conventions humans are used to from everyday’s life and which are regarded as “normal”.

Furthermore there are some other markers that indicate an unreliable narrator in a story. For instance there is to mention that unreliable narratives mostly are told through a first person narrator who claims to be omniscient and hold up the right to make judgments about other characters. Certain moral discrepancies and textual inconsistencies or textual clues and markers are further indicators for an unreliable narrator. Furthermore contradictions between the narrator and the story or other inner discrepancies of the narrator or his/her/its actions may take place (cf. Nünning, 97). One of the mostly named and eldest indicators for unreliability is the implied author. This form of author carries the effect of an intentional fallacy so that a certain discrepancy occurs between the reader, the real author and the implied author who may also carry the role of the narrator and the narrative itself. This discrepancy of course leads to the unreliability of the narrative or the narrator. So, it gets furthermore hard for the reader to sympathize with the narrator. Having no sympathy for the narrator can furthermore lead to the problem that the reader thinks the narrator is misreading or misinterpreting certain facts during the story or other characters that are essential for the story. Other signals of unreliability are the self-characterization of the narrator and his or her evidence about the inner state of being while judging about other characters in the story without even having spoken to them.


Excerpt out of 15 pages


Narrative and Identity
University of Siegen
Narrative and Identity
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
547 KB
Unreliability, Reliability, narrative, identity, lady, red, shoes, Ita Daly, Nünning, Peter Raggatt, multiplicity, dialogical self, Benjamin Zephaniah, Face, unreliable, narration, creating self, story, narrative approach, Hülya Akkaş, Hülya, Akkas
Quote paper
M.A. Hülya Akkaş (Author), 2009, Narrative and Identity, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Narrative and Identity

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free