Response Paper #1
Falling Into Guillermo Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story”
“She Lived in a Story,” by Guillermo Samperio, begins as a heterodiegetic narrative. A heterodiegetic narrative is a story told by a narrator who is not present as a character in the story (Jahn N1.10). There is a rule of thumb to the effect that one can tell if a text is heterodiegetic if all of its story-related action sentences are third-person sentences (Jahn N1.11). In the case of a heterodiegetic narrative, the heterodiegetic narrator tells a story about the experiences of other people and not of his- or herself (Jahn N1.13). At the beginning of “She Lived in a Story,” Samperio introduces his first character, Guillermo Segovia. From the first sentence of the story, Segovia is referred to as, “the writer Guillermo Segovia” (Samperio 54). The narrator’s use of a third-person sentence to introduce Segovia tells the readers from the beginning that the narrator is a heterodiegetic narrator. Throughout the part of the story containing Segovia, the heterodiegetic narrator refers to the character as “Guillermo Segovia” (Samperio 54) or “Guillermo” (Samperio 55), and uses pronouns such as “he” (Samperio 55) or “his” (Samperio 55) in reference to the character. We are told by the narrator that Segovia decides to write a story of his own, and Segovia’s part of the story ends when, “he typed the title and began to write” (Samperio 57). A new story then begins, and Segovia’s story has both the same title as Samperio’s and the story begins as a heterodiegetic narrative as well. The first time we are introduced to Segovia’s created character, the narrator tells us that, “With Plaza Hidalgo at her back, down narrow Francisco Sosa Avenue, Ofelia was walking” (Samperio 57). In this introductory sentence, the readers are made aware of the heterodiegetic nature of this narrative because of the use of the pronoun “her” (Samperio 57) and Ofelia’s name as a third-person reference to her character. But while the part of the story containing Segovia remained heterodiegetic throughout, Ofelia’s part of the story shifts halfway through. We are told by the heterodiegetic narrator that as Ofelia is walking home one night, “she […] felt the impression of being watched while walking down the avenue” (Samperio 58). Suddenly, Ofelia understands the meaning behind the peculiar sensation she is experiencing and says to herself: “I’m inside the eye” (Samperio 59). Then, “following the idea in what she had just said, she continued…” (Samperio 59). This is the last of the heterodiegetic narration that began in Segovia’s part of the story. From this point forward, Samperio’s narrative shifts to a homodiegetic narrative with a homodiegetic narrator. A homodiegetic narrative is one where the narrator is also one of the story’s acting characters (Jahn N1.10). In Samperio’s story, Ofelia becomes the homodiegetic narrator. The readers see the change in the text through the use of pronouns, which shift from first-person pronouns to third-person pronouns. Ofelia finishes Segovia’s written story as the homodiegetic narrator, almost as if she takes over Segovia’s job as the unseen heterodiegetic narrator. She then writes her own story and remains the homodiegetic narrator throughout that one as well. Samperio’s method of shifting homo- and heterodiegetic narratives gives the readers the sensation of falling deeper and deeper into the story. When Samperio begins his story, the heterodiegetic narrator provides a buffer between the reader and the character and creates a sense of aloofness to the character of Guillermo Segovia. However, as the readers get farther along in the story, they meet Ofelia. At first, Ofelia’s character possesses a buffer as well. But Ofelia seems to break down the buffer between her and the readers and becomes the homodiegetic narrator of her part of the story. She then is not only a character but the narrator as well, bringing her a step closer to the readers and making her part of the story more personal to the readers than Segovia’s.
Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” Poems, Plays, and Prose: A Guide to the Theory of Literary Genres. Cologne: U of Cologne Press, 2002. <http://www.uni-koeln.de/~ame02/pppn.htm>
Samperio, Guillermo. “She Lived in a Story.” New Writing from Mexico. Spec. issue of TriQuarterly magazine (1992): 54-62. Print.
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