Anthony Riojas 6/9/11
Rarely in fictional literature is it made completely known to the characters themselves of their fictitious existence. Even when the audience is aware that characters have no real control, literary figures are usually ignorant to it. The characters believe they have some form of control over their daily lives and generally they are oblivious to the existence of the author or narrator. This applies to the heterodiegetic narrative, whereas in the homodiegetic since a character is a narrator they are merely unaware of the author’s control. This technique of creating self aware characters is known as breaking the “stream of consciousness”. The stream of consciousness describes “he disjointed character of mental processes and the layering and merging of central and peripheral levels of awareness” (Jahn, N8.8). These levels of awareness refer to how much the character knows of their environment. In other words, the central level of consciousness is the character being aware of their environment and the world around them. Peripheral awareness is a character being aware of others. By breaking this consciousness, a character can become aware of other presences. Guillermo Samperio’s “She Lived in a Story” makes us of this technique, such as when Ofelia is made aware of her author Segovia, and vice versa.. In the story it becomes evident of the character’s self awareness when Ofelia states “I write that he writes a story that I live in” (Samperio, 60). This quote not only emphasizes the realization of the lack of control, but also the acceptance that there is no control. Within this one passage, there is a relinquishing of power in a sense. It is relinquishing power because the characters neither try to gain control, nor fight back, they merely accept that someone else, an author, controls their very existence and determines their every action. This is uncommon in that normally with heterodiegetic narration, the character is unaware they are being watched or even controlled. This breaks the illusion and the barrier between spectator and character.
Samperio’s short story manages to break the stream of consciousness, but it also switches the stream by redirecting the internal focalizer, “the character through whose eyes the story is presented” (Jahn, N1.18). The story does this by changing the point of view so that the reader is observing the narrative from a new homodiegetic narrator. There is also an interesting twist as the characters are aware of the switch in the focalizer. There is a very important break in consciousness for Segovia as well as a viewpoint swap when Ofelia says:
I feel like I’m disinhabiting Guillermo Segovia’s story. And he cannot pretend that my text might be entitled something like “Guillermo Lived in a Story”; now I write that Segovia, already scared out of his wits moves toward his study at the same time that I begin to live in just on Coyoacán, while he gradually inhabits two, three, many Coyoacáns (Samperio, 61).
It is in this passage that there is a pivotal change as Segovia is no longer narrating the story within the story, but Ofelia has become the internal focalizer at this point. Ofelia is now narrating and controlling the sub-story. This reinforces the break in the consciousness stream by having the character within the story’s story become aware of an outside presence. This notion is further supported with the switch in point of view by having the focalizer become the focalized. This passage shows exactly where the stream of consciousness is broken. It is here that the reader can see the shift in the peripheral level of awareness in both main characters. The central level of awareness is also blurred in that, everything they each knew of their environments becomes discredited. Both Segovia and Ofelia at some point within the story begin to question their reality as the lines of confusion are drawn. They have difficulty discerning what is real or whether they ever had any control. They both eventually come to accept that there is an even greater authoritative force controlling the existence that controls the sub-existence. This change in perspective also demonstrates a change in the controlling force within the story. The story within the story begins with Segovia in control, manipulating Ofelia’s every move and thought, raising her paranoia level while doing so. As the focalizer changes Ofelia not only becomes narrator, but controller as well, dictating Segovia’s every action up until the story’s end. Eventually both characters relinquish control and Samperio is shown to be the final say in the characters’ fate.
Samperio, G. “She lived in a Story”; Gibbons, R. “New Writing from Mexico” ©Northwestern University 1992