The first person narrative is used in novels and short stories in order to provide the reader with a more intimate view of what is being told. Stories like these often contain parenthetical statements in which a narrator chooses to interrupt writing in order to convey a personal remark. These comments evoke an effect on the reader. Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star and Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s “The Time is Night” each contain several instances where this literary technique is used.
Through analyzing the usage of parenthetical interjections within each iece it is possible to see why narrators choose to introduce comments using parentheses. The narrator of Lispector’s The Hour of the Star, Rodrigo S. M. , disturbs his tale with parenthetical comments for a few reasons. After discussing how Macabea does not like the title of congresswoman, Rodrigo remarks “As I said, this is not a story about thoughts. Later l’ll probably go back to the unnamed feelings [.. ] Macabea’s story has to come out or l’ll burst” (Lispector 38).
Rodrigo does not care about Macabea’s thoughts despite the story being solely about her. In interjecting his thoughts Rodrigo is trying to make the tale more about him. He is not telling the story for her sake he is telling it for his own. He, in a way, uses his parenthetical remark to distract the reader from the actual story being told, because he does not want the reader to become attached to Macabea. Though the reader never learns any concrete details about Rodrigo, his odd interruptions provide an understanding of how narcissistic he is as a person.
In the midst of a conversation between Olimpico and Macabea about Macabea’s apparent stupidity, Rodrigo arenthetically interjects with “I’m astonished to know the truth so well. Could it be my painful task is to guess [… ] the truth that nobody wants to see? ” (Lispector 48). Rodrigo is letting the reader know how intelligent he is about Macabea’s situation. He knows the truth about her life more so than she does. It is his way of promoting himself over Macabea and appearing to be wise. Moreover, he adds his opinion to the story in order to show the reader how tasking writing about Macabea is.
He tries to make it seem that he has no choice in writing this narrative, nd in doing so is forcing the reader to feel bad for him. Once again, Rodrigo uses his comments to reinforce the idea that the story is about his thoughts, not Macabea’s. Towards the end of Lispector’s novel, Rodrigo attempts, once more, to shift the focus of the story to his own thoughts. As Macabea lies dying in the street Rodrigo notices that some people are staring at her, and he remarks that they do nothing to aid her, just as nobody ever has.
While describing this scene he interjects a separate thought of his in parentheses and states “But who am I to rebuke the guilty? The worst part is that I have to forgive them” (Lispector 72). Why would Rodrigo point this out if it does nothing to further the storyline? He makes a comment because he wants the reader to recognize that he forgives the people who watch her dying on the street, and he wants the reader to relate to him more than to Macabea. The strikingly odd thing is that Rodrigo is just as bad as those who stare at Macabea but who do not care about her existence.
He notes throughout the piece that he loves Macabea and that he cares for her, but even while she is dying he decides to ignore that and nterject his own thoughts, and distract the reader from the actual story. He wants readers to feel bad for Macabea, but more importantly he wants readers to feel bad for him, and relate to him over her. Why else we Rodrigo choose to so often parenthetically interrupt with his own thoughts? Despite the narrative being about Macabea, the purpose of the novella is to explain his thoughts. The closing of the book is not even about Macabea; it is about Rodrigo’s own thoughts on death.
He using parenthetical comments to constantly remind the reader not to orry about Macabea’s thoughts or even how she feels, for ultimately the focus of the story is Rodrigo. In Petrushevskaya’s “The Time is Night”, Anna Andriovna’s use of parenthetical remarks shows readers a glimpse of her personality on a deeper level. Towards the beginning of the novella, Anna relays the contents of part of her daughter Alena’s diary. During this time Anna chooses to write parenthetical comments containing her thoughts. After reading a section describing what Alena was doing while her son was sick at Anna’s house, Anna interjects with “What nonsense.
What atters is that I saved the boy that night” (Petrushevskaya 16). She is reading about what her daughter did, but decides to remark on how it was up to her to save the child’s life. This comment shows readers that Anna has to step up and take responsibility for Tima, Alena’s son, because Alena is an unfit mother. Anna’s statement shifts the focus of the story from Alena’s troubles to her own, and in doing so she promotes the idea that she is far more important than the daughter. Anna, therefore, could be seen as a conceited character.
This holds true later on when Anna reads a section of Alena’s diary which escribes the pain she felt when her lover refused to touch her again after being discovered by a student. Upon reading this Anna parenthetically exclaims “Never have I let a man hurt me. And what do we read here? She calls this suffering? This nonsense? ” (Petrushevskaya 20). Anna, once more, transfers the attention of the reader from the daughter to herself. She needs the reader to feel bad for her and all that she has dealt with in life. No matter how bad Alena’s story may seem, Anna’s is apparently far worse and much more important.
The parenthetical comments affect the reader by shifting attention rom one character to another, and in doing so promotes this character over the other. In addition to shifting focus from one character to another, parenthetical interjections within “The Time is Night” also show the vain qualities of Anna Andriovna. As Anna is talking about letters that Alena writes to her brother who is in jail, she interrupts the story to note “[Alena] wouldn’t let me see them, but I read them anyway” (Petrushevskaya 31). The parenthetical comment shows readers that Anna does not respect her daughter’s personal space.
What gives Anna the right to invade Alena’s privacy and read the letters? Anna believes, in a way, that because she has done so much for Alena it is her right to read the notes and do whatever she wants. She does not care how her daughter may react because she is simply more important. Though in writing a parenthetical remark Anna is simply trying to describe her thoughts on the matter, the comment indirectly forces Anna to become the center of attention. The comment effectively disrupts the flow of the story in order to make Anna seem better and more important.
In stories with a first person narrative it is common to find hort parenthetical remarks, but what is the purpose of these comments? More often than not a narrator interjects with a parenthetical statement in order to make themselves be more important than other characters. This occurs with both Rodrigo S. M. and Anna Andriovna. Throughout his tale, Rodrigo adds side comments in order to force the reader to see that the story is about him, and not about Macabea. Similarly, Anna uses parenthetical interjections to make the reader believe she is a better mother than Alena, and to make them view her as more important.
In each of these cases the parenthetical comments elicit a certain effect on the reader of the novella. The comments disrupt the regular flow of the story in order to promote the narrator as being the most important aspect of the tale, whether or not the narrator is even a part of the current dialogue or scene. This is the important distinction between comments made parenthetically, and other remarks that are simply part of the story being told. When a narrator adds a parenthetical interjection, they want the reader to stop focusing on what is being told and remember that the story is ultimately bout the narrator.
Often times this is the result of a conceited and narcissistic character. Rodrigo interrupts the scene where Macabea is dying in order to note that he should simply forgive those that do not help her as she dies. He does not actually seem to care that she is dying. And Anna, disturbs the reading of Alena’s diary to say that her own troubles are far worse than Alena’s. Ultimately, parenthetical readers force a reader to stop focusing on what is being said, and instead see that the narrator is the most important aspect of the story.