Help Needed from Smarter People

I’m trying to come up with a list of what I’m belaboringly calling “deuteragonistic narrators”—i.e., first-person narrators who are not the protagonists in their own stories.

Some classic examples:

  • Nick in The Great Gatsby
  • Jim in My Ántonia
  • “we” in “A Rose for Emily”

And that’s all I can come up with. Sorta-kinda DNs can be found in Heart of Darkness, A Good Soldier, and Lolita, though whether all those narrators aren’t pretty much the protagonists of those novels is I think up for debate.

There has to be more. (There have to be more?) Can you help?

5 thoughts on “Help Needed from Smarter People”

  1. A brief but time-wasting scan through my bookshelves has uncovered Ishmael in Moby Dick—which I haven’t read, and so maybe he is indeed the protagonist and not Ahab—and the hemp-dresser and curé in George Sand’s The Country Waif, which I may be completely misremembering.

    And then sorta-kinda one in Atonement, though by that logic we may also have to include The Ice Storm, right?

  2. Well, I don’t have the book in front of me, but as I recall the Heart of Darkness narrator is actually a guy on a boat listening to Marlow’s story, yes? So like the narrator is technically someone, presumably Conrad, listening to Marlow who is mostly talking about Kurtz. Small distinction, I guess, but also sort of the ultimate example of a narrator without a role.

    Buy, yeah, The Good Soldier doesn’t seem to count as the narrator is certainly a major character even if he is passive.

    I’ll keep thinking about it.

  3. Watson in Sherlock holmes. Adso in the name of the rose. Actually the latter is an homage to the former.

  4. Watson is the narrator for every Holmes story? And like: Hound of the Baskervilles? That’s very interesting.

    And lo: The Name of the Rose. For some reason my not having read any Umberto Eco bothers me more than my not having read a lot of other writers.

  5. In Joan Didion’s _Democracy_, Joan Didion is the fictional narrator and Inez is the main character.

    Chief is the narrator of _One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest_, but I think an argument could be made that McMurphy is the main character.

    John Wheelwright is the narrator of _A Prayer for Owen Meany_, and I think Owen is as much the main character as Gatsby in Gatsby.

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