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What is a naive narrator in literature?

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Quick Answer

A naive narrator is a subcategory of the unreliable narrator, a narrative device used throughout literature. The naive narrator is most often a character within a story whose voice is used to create a sense of ironic observation through their own inexperience and innocence.

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The naive narrator is commonly found in literature that is written from a first-person perspective, according to author Martin Turner. The naive narrator does not objectively understand the events happening around him. The narrator's inexperience causes a distorted perspective that the author uses to communicate satire or another important point. The most unique aspect of the naive narrator is that this device does not require the author to communicate directly through the narrator. Popular examples of naive narrators in famous works include “Gulliver's Travels” and “The Canterbury Tales.” Both books feature narrators who are often clueless about the greater context of their experiences.

Other examples of the naive narrator include Nelly Dean of “Wuthering Heights” and Holden Caulfield from “The Catcher In The Rye." These narrators are said to demonstrate the flaws in the worlds and systems they operate in. The narrator of “Candide,” an infamous satire of war and power, is particularly well-known for using this tactic.

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