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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study develops a theoretical paradigm of narrative relations. The study posits the first-person narrator as a figure of authority within the text, a problematic figuration which implicates the text in issues of social relations and ideology with reference to questions of the narrator's empowerment. The study analyzes the first-person narrator's progressive engagement in the narrative relations of time and language as a means to assess the relative empowerment of the narrator by his narrating activity. The study argues for a Puritan legacy by which language retains its ability to empower and to enact a progression which, over time, has become a paradoxical diminishment of spiritual fulfillment. The first-person narrator thus stands as inheritor of the Puritan ministers whose status as the first American narrators confers on them an authority of origination to be acknowledged and supplanted by their successors. The form of this study seeks to unfold a progressive engagement of narrative relations, and models a movement toward a narrator fully engaged in progression, in mimicry of the Puritan doctrine of progression toward spiritual fulfillment. Using textual examples from among first-person narratives credited as the canon of American literature, the study associates characteristic narrative relations and empowerment with narrators it characterizes as impotent, including Ernest Hemingway's narrator, Jake Barnes, in The Sun Also Rises, and the unnamed narrators of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," Henry James's The Sacred Fount and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Characteristics of bachelor narrators are exemplified by Herman Melville's narrator, Ishmael, in Moby-Dick, and by Nathaniel Hawthorne's narrator, Miles Coverdale, in The Blithedale Romance. Affiliated narrators are discussed in terms of their textual enactment by F. Scott Fitzgerald's narrator of The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway, Tennessee Williams's narrator of the reading edition of his play The Glass Menagerie, Tom Wingfield, and Walt Whitman's narrator of his poem, "Starting from Paumanock."