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 Ling 131: Language & Style

 Topic 8 - Discourse structure and point of view > Linguistic indicators of point of view > Task F

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Session Overview
Discourse structure and point of view
Discourse structure of 1st and 3rd person novels
Being the author!
Different kinds of point of view
Linguistic indicators of point of view
Ideological viewpoint
Point of view in a more extended example
Point of view checksheet
Topic 8 'tool' summary
Useful Links

Linguistic indicators of point of view

Task F - Verbs of perception and cognition

In the extract below, we are clearly given the point of view of the character Ida Arnold. What role do the highlighted verbs play in this?

Ida Arnold sat up in the boarding-house bed. (1) For a moment she didn't know where she was (2). Her head ached with the thick night at Sherry's (3). It came slowly back to her as she stared at the thick ewer on the floor ... (3)

(Graham Greene More about Graham Greene, 0000-0000, Brighton Rock)

Our answer


Value-laden expression - attitudinal and ideological viewpoint markers

Besides the spatial, temporal and social aspects of viewpoint, we also need to consider personal and ideological attitude. Someone's viewpoint can also apply to how they feel about something, or what their attitude to it is. Consider the quotation below from a short story by D. H. Lawrence. Fanny is an educated woman who had left her village and the working class man she would otherwise have had to marry, in order to become a governess. Now her job has come to an end because her charge has now grown up, she is forced to return to the village to marry Harry, something which she appears very unwilling to do. We have highighted the words and phrases we are going to concentrate on:

She opened the door of her grimy branch-line carriage, and began to get down her bags (1). The porter was nowhere, of course, but there was Harry (2). There, on the sordid little station under the furnaces, she stood, tall and distinguished, in her well-made coat and skirt and her broad grey velour hat (3).

(D.H. Lawrence , Fanny and Annie.)

First of all we can note the way in which the adjectives concerning the carriage of the train and the railway station are not just descriptive. They also have connotations which suggest disapproval on the part of the narrator and the character Fanny, from whose viewpoint the scene is surveyed, The external description of Fanny herself is, by contrast, approving in terms of the adjectives used. She appears to be a cut above her surroundings. We can also note the use of the distal deictic 'there' being used not just to suggest physical apartness from the perceiver, but also an analogical attitudinal distance. Harry is being coded in the same was as the unpleasant surroundings.

In the Lawrence extract we have just examined, the attitudes indicated are by and large personal. But when such views are representative of more general attitudes they are often referred to as ideological in nature. Hence the shared social or political views of a group of people might be called ideological. We can see this if we return to the example from Something Out There by Nadine Gordimer, which we reproduce here for convenience:

Whatever it was, it made a nice change from the usual sort of news, these days.

The phrases 'a nice change' and 'the usual sort of news' can now be seen as marking the attitude of the woman who is thinking these thoughts. Hence the news about the presence of the dangerous animal is described in approving terms (which is surely odd in itself), compared with ;'the usual sort of news'. But what is 'the usual sort of news' in this context? She is a white woman in South Africa as the apartheid system is breaking down. Hence it is possible to see her as representative of many white South Africans who had become to believe that their privileged existence at the expense of their black countryfolk (who were educated less well, had fewer legal rights and so on) was a right. Here, then we have an ideological viewpoint being expressed, to which to some degree we are being made to 'accommodate' via the use of deixis, given and new information and value-laden expressions. But in this case it is rather difficult to agree with the ideological viewpoint being assumed by the woman, and so we are left with an ironic tension between the pull of the viewpoint markers and the content of what is being expressed. Viewpoint considerations in this little extract are thus quite complex, and the irony involved is not unlike that we saw with Mr Verloc waiting to be murdered by his wife.


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