A comparison of the literary and narrative devices used to present character and create meaning in Eveline and The Waltz

There are a variety of literary and narrative devices used by authors to present their characters and to influence the meaning that readers may glean from a text. In particular, the characters in a text may be placed in a discourse using different focalisation and characterisation techniques. The short stories Eveline (Joyce) and The Waltz (Parker) utilise similar methods overall, placing the focus inward to the thoughts and feelings of their female protagonists, yet there are also differences in both the form and the amount of detail provided, which are essential to shaping the reader’s interpretation.

Focalisation refers to the perspective from which events are seen, felt, understood and assessed (Onega and Landa, 60) and it is clear that both texts use internal focalisation to bring the reader into the thoughts of the main character. Although the primary setting for The Waltz is ostensibly the short moment of time between a woman being asked to dance and the duration of the dance itself, the use of internal focalisation grants the reader access into her thoughts and particularly the humorous internal monologue that conflicts with her external façade. In a similar way, Eveline largely occurs with Eveline sitting at a window, looking outside and thinking, yet the narrative goes much deeper by entering her thoughts as she contemplates her situation. According to Stasi, with “one action, two scenes, with the bulk of the plot occurring in Eveline’s head; this text is all about interiority” (Stasi, 41). It is through this use of internal focalisation that the reader is given a deep understanding of Eveline’s dilemma and develops a sympathy for her situation. Both Eveline and The Waltz take what is externally a small amount of time and open this up via an internal focus on their protagonist and her thoughts.

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