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Narration Rhetorical Mode

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Narration Rhetorical Mode

If you wanted to tell the story of your first day at school, how would you go about it? Chances are, you’d begin with the first moment you can recall, which might be waking up or getting ready at home. You would probably move on to the next significant event you can remember. You may also frequently use the word “I,” and write about everything from your perspective—rather than, say, your mother’s. To tell that story of your first day of school, you would likely rely on many important principles of narration.

Narration, Meaning of Narration, Stack of Books, Blocks, and Apple, StudySmarterNarration is a method of telling stories and sharing events, recognized all over the world.

Meaning of Narration as a Rhetorical Mode

Narration is a rhetorical mode used to tell a story, communicate a series of events, or describe a scene.

Rhetorical modes organize communication, meaning they are an established way to order rhetoric.

When you thought about how you might narrate your first day of school, did you have to spend a lot of time deciding how to tell the story? Likely not, because narration follows a particular pattern of organization—which is another term for rhetorical mode—that most of us are very familiar with.

Narration can describe both fictional and true events. Most, if not all of us, have seen a movie, read a book, or heard someone tell a story in our lifetimes. Each of these examples follow the narrative pattern. Often, when someone tells a story or explains something in chronological order, they are using narration as a rhetorical mode. One of the hallmarks of narrative writing is chronological order.

Chronological order is the arrangement of events from beginning to end, or in order of how they happened. Rhetorical modes organize communication for the audience's benefit, and chronological order is one of the most widely understood rhetorical devices because the entire human experience occurs in chronological order.

Importance of Narration

Narrative writing connects ideas, events, or concepts. There are three important aspects of narration to keep in mind.

1. Narration Connects Events and Aspects of a Story

Narration through storytelling makes sense of specific themes, ideas, or concepts and relates them to each other. By connecting one event to another through narration, an author can reveal a pattern.

2. Narration Shapes Events Around an Overarching Effect

Whether consciously or unconsciously, narration can shape events around a particular goal or effect. For example, the goal of a comedic narrative is to make the audience laugh. This means a comedic narrative can be shaped in order to serve that purpose.

3. Narration is the Art of Storytelling

By narrating an event, a person is practicing the art of storytelling. It is the ability to connect one event to another, revealing something important about the event or the narrator.

Purpose of Narration as a Rhetorical Mode

One major purpose of narration is to keep the action moving in a forward direction. Fictional writing especially often relies on narration to move the story along. The designated timeline helps the reader not only understand the series of events, but also to put themselves in the story and experience it personally.

Narration, Purpose of Narration, Audience at the Cinema, StudySmarterAudiences of all kinds understand the format of narration and enjoy the entertainment of a good story.

Types of Narration

There are five common types of narration that serve different purposes. These are descriptive narrative, viewpoint narrative, historical narrative, linear narrative, and non-linear narrative.

Descriptive Narrative

The purpose of descriptive narration can be boiled down to two basic ideas:

  1. It creates a sense of time, place, and setting

  2. It conveys the mood and tone of said time, place, and setting

Tone and mood might seem like the same thing, but in writing, they accomplish two different goals. Tone is the attitude conveyed through things like punctuation, sentence structure, and other nuances in your writing. Mood is the feeling created in the reader by a larger portion of writing.

Descriptive narratives use sensory details to explain something. In other words, a descriptive narrative will use language that appeals to the reader's taste, touch, smell, feel, or sound.

Take, for example, the protagonist’s description of a room from Jane Eyre (1847) written by Charlotte Brontë. The narrative uses details of sight, feel, and sound to describe the scene to the reader.

[W]hen I draw up the curtain this time, reader, you must fancy you see a room in the George Inn at Milcote, with such large figured papering on the walls as inn rooms have... All this is visible to you by the light of an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, and by that of an excellent fire, near which I sit in my cloak and bonnet, my muff and umbrella lie on the table, and I am warming away the numbness and chill contracted by sixteen hours’ exposure to the rawness of an October day: I left Lowton at four o'clock, and the Milcote town clock is now just striking eight."

(Ch.11)

Viewpoint Narrative

Much of the time, the purpose of narration is to show how a particular individual perceives an event or their surroundings. Viewpoint narrative filters everything through an individual’s point of view.

The power of viewpoint narrative is that it informs the audience’s perceptions, getting them to see things the way the narrator does. When readers read something narrated, they typically identify with whoever is speaking, whatever their perspective.

It is possible for the viewpoint to change between characters within a single piece of writing, or even on a single page. The narrator is simply the person telling the audience what is happening or what someone is thinking, and it is all coming from their perspective.

For example, two people may be explaining how their group presentation went and one may have seen it as a smashing success, while the other would describe it as a train wreck. The audience will only know about the presentation from the narrator's perspective, or whoever is describing it.

Historical Narrative

This type of narration recounts events from the past. Because historical narrative writes about events that have already happened—again, either fictional or true events—it is able to establish causation between events. In other words, historical narrative can show how or why one thing caused another to happen.

Historical narrative is common in genres such as biography, autobiography, and subgenres such as historical romance and historical fiction. Ernest Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast (1964), where he writes about his life in Paris in the 1920s, is a great example of historical narrative.

I was very shy when I first went into the bookshop and I did not have enough money on me to join the rental library. She told me I could pay the deposit any time I had the money and made me out a card and said I could take as many books as I wished. There was no reason for her to trust me. She did not know me and the address I had given her, 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine, could not have been a poorer one. (Shakespeare and Company)

Linear Narrative

Linear narrative is telling a story in the order the events happened. This is also known as sequential, or chronological, order. Linear narrative can be found in realist fiction, or any time an author presents a series of events realistically.

Narration, Types of Narration, Finger Tips Over Line of Dominoes, StudySmarterChronological order assembles information based on timing and according to what happened from first to last.

As you recalled the details from your first day at school, they may have come to your mind out of order, but chances are your mind went about arranging them from first to last as you assembled your narrative.

Non-Linear Narrative

An author doesn’t have to provide narrative events in sequential order. Non-linear narrative shares events out of order, at least from a chronological perspective. This narrative approach can actually provide more information about the narrator’s mental or emotional state.

Flashbacks are a form of non-linear narrative and are one way to show the emotional impact of an event on a person. Readers see many flashbacks in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951), which give the reader insight into the psyche of the anti-hero, Holden.

She wouldn’t even answer me, then. She made out like she was concentrating on her next move in the game and all. Then all of a sudden, this tear plopped down on the checkerboard. On one of the red squares – boy, I can still see it. “She just rubbed it into the board with her finger. (Ch. 11)

This quote is from a formative memory for Holden; in it, he recalls the aftermath of an interaction between Jane, his crush, and her stepfather. He begins to suspect the stepfather is abusing Jane, but Holden doesn’t know how to comfort her. This flashback gives us helpful context about Holden's character and how he perceives the world.

Examples of Narration as a Rhetorical Mode

Narration requires a perspective, meaning there must be someone doing the narrating. There are six types of narrators, as seen below, each with an example highlighting how narration functions as a rhetorical mode.

Omniscient (Sees all, knows all)

Omniscient means to have infinite knowledge and insight. An omniscient narrator is above the action and events of the story and has intimate knowledge about what other characters perceive and think.

Her first day in a new school was anything but a success. First, she got lost and was late to her first class of the day. Then, she forgot her textbooks in her locker and had to ask the teacher if she could go get them in the middle of class. The other kids wondered why she seemed so nervous, but they didn’t bother talking to her. The bell couldn’t ring soon enough for her.

In this example, the narrator shared what the main character was experiencing, as well as the other students at the school. This is the only narrative perspective that can offer insight into multiple characters’ minds and motivations.

First-person (I, we)

This narrator tells events from their point of view. That means first-person uses “I” (or “we” for plural) to explain events and how they experienced them.

My first day of school was exciting. I woke up and put on my new outfit I picked out with my mom, then after breakfast, I grabbed my sparkly new backpack and was out the door.

Notice how everything is from the narrator’s perspective; words like “my,” and “I” tell you that this is first-person narration.

Second-person (You)

In second-person, the reader is the one driving the action. Think of “Choose your own adventure” stories, in which the reader decides what happens in the story. Second-person narration is often instruction-oriented.

I’ll never forget your first day of school. You walked into that school with your oversized backpack, and after a quick wave goodbye, you never looked back.

Second-person narration is describing or talking about someone else. The words “you” and “your” indicate second-person perspective.

Third-person (He/ she/ they)

Third-person narration explains events from a more distant perspective. The narrator only shares what they see or know with the reader. This is known as limited third-person narration.

In this type of narration, the narrator is a non-participating observer and is not attached to the characters or events. The narrator speaks for a singular individual and is limited to that one person's thoughts and perspective. They can guess what other individuals think or feel, but that is only based on what the viewpoint character's perceptions.

Theo warily ascended the stairs at his new school. He wasn’t sure what to expect from the other students at Waverly High. His nerves were relieved when a friendly younger student walked straight up to him and said, “Hi! Welcome to Waverly. I’m Scott and I’ll show you around.”

The narrator only knows what Theo is thinking and how he is feeling. The narrator can’t speak to how Scott or anyone else in this story feels.

Unreliable

An unreliable narrator is one who may share untrue or misleading information. Sometimes an unreliable narrator shares incorrect information on purpose, and other times it is by mistake. There are several types of unreliable narrators; they might be offering false information because they are naive, an outsider, insane, a picaro (i.e., one who exaggerates), or a liar. Unreliable narrators may also avoid the truth out of self-preservation.

The school loomed over me like a monster, waiting for me to wander in so it could devour me. Sure enough, once I entered the building, the lockers lining the hallway looked like vicious teeth ready to chew me up and spit me out.

This example is written from the first-person point of view, but the terrifying description of the school is exaggerated, perhaps to mirror the fear the narrator feels in a new school.

Fly-on-wall

A fly-on-the-wall narrator is purely objective and doesn’t have an opinion. This type of narrator simply records and relates events, like a camera. This narrative perspective is very straightforward and doesn’t offer much insight into the characters.

Naomi’s first day of school was good but uneventful. From the moment she walked into her classroom, she easily slid into the stream of activities like she’d been there her whole life. After lunch was recess, and while she was too late to reach the swings before the other kids, she found a group of girls playing hopscotch and joined in.

Although there are plenty of details about Naomi’s first day of school, everything is explained without reflecting how the events affected Naomi or anyone else. The fly-on-the-wall narrator simply relays information without any emotional context.

Narration Rhetorical Mode - Key Takeaways

  • Narration is a rhetorical mode used to tell a story, communicate a series of events, or describe a scene.
  • One major purpose of narration is to keep the action moving in a forward direction.
  • Fictional writing especially uses narration as a rhetorical mode.
  • There are five different types of narration to serve different purposes: descriptive narrative, viewpoint narrative, historical narrative, linear narrative, and non-linear narrative.
  • There are six types of narrators:
    • First-person (I/ we)
    • Second-person (You)
    • Third-person (He/ she/ they)
    • Omniscient (All-knowing)
    • Unreliable
    • Fly-on-the-wall

Frequently Asked Questions about Narration Rhetorical Mode

Narration tells a story, communicates a series of events, or describes a scene.

Yes, narration is a rhetorical mode.

There are five common types of narration that serve different purposes. These are descriptive narrative, viewpoint narrative, historical narrative, linear narrative, and non-linear narrative.

Narrative writing connects ideas, events, or concepts. Narration is also important to fictional writing, as it keeps the action of the story moving in a forward direction.

There are six types of narrators: first-person, second-person, third-person, omniscient, fly-on-the-wall, unreliable.

Final Narration Rhetorical Mode Quiz

Question

What is narration?

Show answer

Answer

Narration is a rhetorical mode used to tell a story, communicate a series of events, or describe a scene. 

Show question

Question

What are rhetorical modes?

Show answer

Answer

Rhetorical modes organize communication, meaning they are an established way to order rhetoric. 

Show question

Question

True or false: Narration can describe both true and fictional events?

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not an example of narration as a rhetorical mode?

  • Romantic comedy movie
  • Novel
  • Biography
  • Textbook

Show answer

Answer

Textbook

Show question

Question

Much of the time, when someone tells a story or explains something in ______________, they are using narration as a rhetorical mode. 

Show answer

Answer

Chronological order

Show question

Question

Why does fictional writing often use narration?

Show answer

Answer

Narration moves the story in a forward direction, and the designated timeline helps the reader not only understand the series of events, but also to put themselves in the story and experience it personally.

Show question

Question

Which type of narration is missing from the list below?

  • Descriptive
  • Historical
  • Linear
  • Non-linear
  • __________

Show answer

Answer

Viewpoint

Show question

Question

Which type of narrator is used below:


"Manuel was feeling sick. He begged his brother to take him to get some medicine. He wasn't sure why his brother was so hesitant, but glad that he finally said yes. Together, they went to the drug store."

Show answer

Answer

Third-person narrator

Show question

Question

Which type of narrator is used below:


"Amanda was nervous to plant a garden but she knew she shouldn't let that stop her from trying. As Amanda contemplated which seeds to buy, her mom watched her and could see the nervousness on Amanda's face." 

Show answer

Answer

Omniscient

Show question

Question

What are the six types of narrators?

Show answer

Answer

First-person, second-person, third-person, omniscient, fly-on-the-wall, unreliable. 

Show question

Question

What type of narrative creates a sense of time, place, and setting while conveying the mood of these elements?

Show answer

Answer

Descriptive

Show question

Question

What type of narrative relates events in strict chronological order?

Show answer

Answer

Linear 

Show question

Question

What type of narrative shows how a particular individual perceives their surroundings?

Show answer

Answer

Viewpoint

Show question

Question

True or false: Narrative writing must always use chronological order.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

A flashback is an example of what type of narrative?

Show answer

Answer

Non-linear

Show question

Question

True or False. Mood and tone accomplish the same goal in writing. 


Show answer

Answer

False. Tone is the attitude covered through things like punctuation, sentence structure, and other nuances in writing. Mood is the feeling created in the reader by a larger portion of writing. 

Show question

Question

Which genre are you most likely to find historical narration in?


Show answer

Answer

Autobiography

Show question

Question

What is a non-linear narrative? 

Show answer

Answer

A non-linear narrative is a narrative in which the events occur out of order to provide more information about the narrator’s mental or emotional state. 


Show question

Question

True or False. A narrator is always trustworthy 


Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

A _ narrator is purely objective and doesn’t have an opinion 


Show answer

Answer

Fly-on-wall


Show question

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