Free indirect style, alternatively known as free indirect speech or free indirect discourse, is a narrative style which requires some explanation and unpicking, since it is subtle and sometimes difficult to spot in a work of fiction. However, it is one of the most powerful tools a writer possesses, and has been used to great effect by writers as diverse as Jane Austen, James Joyce, and D. H. Lawrence.
What is free indirect style (free indirect speech/free indirect discourse)? Put simply, free indirect style is when the voice of a third-person narrator takes on the style and ‘voice’ of one of the characters within the story or novel. It is, if you will, as if a detached third-person narrator has begun to turn into a first-person narrator, i.e. one of the characters within the story (or novel). The objectivity and detachment we associate with third-person narrators dissolves into the subjective and personal style of a character. Let’s look at a hypothetical example. Read the rest of this entry
‘The Lotos-Eaters’ is quite a long poem, but we’ve included it below in its entirety before offering some words of analysis. ‘The Lotos-Eaters’ was published in Tennyson’s 1832 collection, which appeared when he was still in his early twenties.
‘Courage!’ he said, and pointed toward the land,
‘This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.’
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.
A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,
Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;
And some thro’ wavering lights and shadows broke,
Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
From the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops,
Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
Stood sunset-flush’d: and, dew’d with showery drops,
Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse. Read the rest of this entry
Notes towards a commentary on Tennyson’s allegory
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) wrote two versions of ‘The Lady of Shalott’. Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ exists as both a 20-stanza poem published in 1832, and the revised version of 19 stanzas – which is the one readers are most familiar with – which was published in 1842. The poem, partly inspired by Arthurian legend (hence the presence of the knight, Lancelot) and partly by the epic sixteenth-century poem The Faerie Queene written by Edmund Spenser, remains popular, although the precise meaning of the poem remains elusive. So, a few words of analysis about this enchanting poem may help to clarify things.
The Lady of Shalott
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.
Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot. Read the rest of this entry