Suicides are probably the most controversial acts committed by individuals in hardest times but writers pay a lot of attention to this problem, especially today, when suicides have already become a serious social problem. In this regard, it is possible to refer to “The Suicides of Private Greaves”, a short story conveying the hard life and decisions being taken by individuals that led to them to the suicide. In fact, “The Suicides of Private Greaves” is told from an anonymous narration-multiple character point of view. This style of writing is interesting because it allows multiple characters, including the protagonist and other characters, to comment in a sometimes limited first person point of view. In such a way, the author reveals the complexity of characters and their psychological state and other factors that may lead any individual to committing a suicide.
In this regard, Moffett and McElheny attempt to explore the problem of using characters and point of view narration to reveal causes of suicides and reasons why people come to the point, when they decide to commit a suicide. In their study, Moffett and McElheny state that every story is told from a first person point of view whether the narrator is identified or not. This is a true statement and is proven in Moffett’s story “The Suicides of Private Greaves”. Moffett uses multiple characters in SPG and clearly they all have a distinct voice and personality. The multi-character point of view helps the reader get all of the dimensions to the story.
At first glance, the use of multiple-character point of view makes the story quite complex and difficult to read because one and the same story is represented from different angles and readers have to concentrate on different perspectives. As a result, it may be difficult for readers to comprehend the flow of the author’s ideas, especially because each character presents his or her version of the story. In such a way, the author uses different characters to bring in some new idea or new shade of meaning in the narration, which could be plain and simplistic, if it was narrated by one character or narrator solely. What is meant here is the fact that the use of multiple-characters narration is an effective tool, with the help of which the author attempts to depict the full story in details and reveal the stylistic richness of the story through each character. The latter means that, as the author presents different standpoints and interpretations from the part of each character participating in the narration, the author creates a brand new image of a character, who has his or her own peculiarities and, therefore, the narration of each character becomes different.
The author pays a lot of attention to details that makes each of the multi-characters very important for the overall revelation of the full story of a suicide. To put it more precisely, the author presents multiple narrations through the use of multiple characters. In this regard, the narration turns out to be stylistically rich and diverse because the author skillfully personifies each narrator bringing in some specific traits of character, which are typical for each narrator in the story.
Along with the stylistic richness, the author makes the story more interesting compared to stories narrated by one character solely. In fact, the audience receives different versions of one and the same story because each narrator brings in something new. In such a way, the audience remains in suspense until the end of the story, when the author finally uncovers the full story of Private Greaves. This stylistic step is very important because it keeps the audience in suspense and, therefore, makes readers interested in the short story from the beginning till the end.
For instance, Moffett postpones the introduction of the main character, Private Greaves. The main character appears just at the bottom of the page of the story. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the fact that the author makes such introduction just to show that the main character is just one of characters, who has his own views, beliefs and naturally his reasons to commit a suicide. However, suicide is not only the internal act, it is not only the decision taken by an individual, but also suicide is a response of an individual on his or her environment. In fact, Private Greaves is also vulnerable to the impact of his environment and suicide is apparently a response of the private on the pressure of his environment. To put it more precisely, the suicide is a combination of internal conflict and personal problems of the main character, on the one hand, and pressure of his environment, on the other. In such a way, the main character interacts closely with his environment. Therefore, the use of the multiple-characters narration turns to be highly efficient tool because it helps to understand the wide gap that existed between Private Greaves and his social environment.
At the same time, the miscomprehension between the main character and his social environment explains the suicide and it is through the multiple-characters narration the miscomprehension becomes obvious. Different characters reveal the full extent, to which they fail to understand motives of the main character to commit a suicide and how different their interpretations of Private Greaves’ actions are compared to the private himself. The diversity of views helps to view one and the same act from different standpoints and to reveal the socio-cultural context in which the action of the short story takes place.
Finally, the use of multiple-characters narration is an effective tool that can offer multiple perspectives on the short story (Habib, 175). In this regard, the diversity of perspectives help readers to take a diverse view on the main problem and idea conveyed by the author through his short story. Therefore, the multiple characters narration becomes the tool of the revelation of the diversity of the theme and ideas raised by the author in the short story.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that Moffett and McElheny reveal a strong trend in contemporary short stories to the use of multi-characters narration, which are an effective tool to reveal the diversity of the theme and ideas conveyed by authors to the audience. In such a way, the multi-characters narration, such as the one in “The Suicides of Private Greaves” allows the audience to perceive multiple perspectives of actions depicted by the authors in short stories, whereas authors can incorporate multiple ideas in short stories.
Habib, M.A.R. A History of Literary Criticism: From Plato to the Present. New York: Random House, 2003.
Moffett, James. “The Suicides of Private Greaves.” Points of View: An Anthology of Short Stories. Eds. James Moffett. New York: Penguin, 1995. 522-548.