Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Teenage Wasteland

In Teenage Wasteland by Anne Tyler, the narrator shapes the story into a format so that we, as readers, can see the whole picture without fully understanding all of the author’s intentions. The limited omniscience of the narrator leads us to feel specific ways towards the individual characters in the story. Daisy is the only character with whom we have a total connection and, as a result, our perceptions of the story are shaped by her actions and thoughts.

Through the limited omniscience of the narrator we are able to comprehend every aspect of Daisy’s experience in relation to the suffering of her son, Donny. To the reader, Daisy is fully understood and her thoughts, actions, and feelings towards certain situations and people are completely clear to us, the readers. The narrator has a limited view, though, and forces us to miss certain portions of the story. We merely see the actions of the other characters in the story rather than emotions and thoughts as we experience from Daisy. Because of this one-sided view of the story, we are able to make certain judgments about the story as skewed by Daisy. As the story begins, we see Daisy speaking to the principle of the school about Donny’s grades slipping (4). We feel the power of her urge to help her son and to make things better. Her confusion about the way in which she raised her child brings us to pity her situation and to even want to help her, even though it seems Donny would be the one who needs the help. Even as it seems Daisy is growing more confident in her son, he falters again and her loss seems to be our loss as well (8). Because we can not see another person’s perspective on the mounting situation with Donny, we cannot seem to get a connection with the other characters in the book as we do with Daisy.

Even her perspectives on other characters in the story impose upon the perception that we, as readers, get of the characters that are presented. Through the story, Daisy has fluctuating feelings about the way that she feels about Cal. She, at first, is comfortable with placing her extra funs into the hands of an unknown person in order to save her son (33). But as Donny seems to get better in the eyes of his mother, the simple monetary loss is an evident gain to Daisy because she sees her son succeeding by raising confidence. The reader feels the roller coaster of emotions that Daisy feels through the situation with Donny. Since we never see any emotions of any other characters, we can understand where her fluctuations of confidence in the situation begin. Towards Cal, we feel as Daisy does; concerned with the welfare of her son, hopeful that confidence in Cal is confidence in her son, and fearful that she is relying too much on an outside source of which she has no control. Because we cannot see the occurrences in Cal’s house, we understand Daisy’s trepidation towards Cal’s methods and Donny’s advancement in his psychological help. Even when Donny begins to heighten his interest in Cal, we are aware of the origin of Daisy’s hesitation toward Cal’s methods because, just as she does, we have no control or awareness of the happenings or outcome. As the mother of Donny, Daisy feels compelled to stay out of the situation in order to help his self-confidence and inspire trust in her son, but as readers we feel as she does. We feel, through her emotions, the fear of letting a child make his own decisions. Once Donny gets expelled, it is logical to us that Daisy would blame Cal because, as it is to her, we cannot see what had been occurring during the lessons Donny attended. Our lack of ability to comprehend other character’s actions put us in the same situation as is Daisy. We, as readers, are seemingly uncomfortable with the situation that Donny goes through because we are part of Daisy’s mind and are unconnected with any other emotions in the story.

Anne Tyler presents us with a limited omniscient narrator in order to describe emotions rather than a setting. We are able to feel the story rather than simply read it. She gives us a means to feel sorry for and to comprehend Daisy’s actions and to misunderstand the actions and intentions of the other characters. Because the author told the story in such a way, it is closer to home for the reader and evokes emotions rather than simple intrigue, as an omniscient narrator would have. In this way, we are able to interpret the story from a single angle and feel as one of the specific characters feel. This would not have been as possible if the story had been told directly from Daisy because we would have been given room to mistrust her narration. Because the emotions were described by an overseeing narrator, we are able to trust that the feelings presented are the truth and that we are meant to feel as Daisy does throughout the story (857).

1 comment:

LCC said...

Your essay did a good job framing our discussion today. By showing that the POV of the story helps us zero in on Daisy's emotions (and as a result produces stronger emotional responses in us as readers) you helped us see the relationship between technique and the point or meaning of the story.