The role of narrator is given to the most eloquent and spirited of the story’s protagonists, the great logician, philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell. It is through his eyes that the plights of such great thinkers as Frege, Hilbert, Poincaré, Wittgenstein and Gödel come to life, and through his own passionate involvement in the quest that the various narrative strands come together.This set me thinking about the role of the narrator in a narrative and the skill that it takes to create such a persona. In particular, I thought of two very different books in which the narrator is anything but a great logician, etc. I had never thought about what it was that these two books had in common. But over the past few days it has dawned on me that the authors have used a similar device, albeit very differently applied, to similar effect. In both cases, the reader has the advantage over the narrator.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee creates Scout Finch, a tomboyish girl being raised -together with her older, more insightful brother - by her widowed father. Scout has little insight into the events playing out in her life, but she records them just the same, knowing that they are important but not sure why. We, the reader understand the nuances she has missed, and see a world of prejudice and injustice of which she remains blithely unaware.
In Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, the autistic teenager Christopher shares with us the contents of his photographic mind without any insight into what it is that those photographs show. Faithfully, he reproduces the minutiae of his observations, allowing us to piece together a story that is deeper and more poignant, with a greater impact on Christopher's life than he realises.
I wonder if there is a way to translate this device to the design of a learning resource - placing the user in the position of advantage, where they are able to make connections and draw conclusions which we have only obliquely revealed.