June 21, 2011
It seemed impossible and contrary to all good practice that such an excellent knight shouldn’t have had some sage who’d have made it his job to record his unprecedented deeds, something never lacked by any of those knights errant
Who go, as people say,
Adventuring their way,
because every one of them had one or two sages, made to measure for him, who not only recorded his exploits but also depicted his least thoughts and most trivial actions (Cervantes 73).
At the beginning of Chapter IX of Don Quixote, the narrator digresses to tell us how he discovered the outcome of the fight between Don Quixote and the Basque. In doing so, he changes from a heterodiegetic narrative to a homodiegetic narrative. As Jahn explains:
A text is homodiegetic if among its story-related action sentences there are some that contain first-person pronouns (I did this; I saw this; this was what happened to me), indicating that the narrator was at least a witness to the events depicted; a text is heterodiegetic if all of its story-related action sentences are third-person sentences (She did this, this was what happened to him)” (N1.11).
For most of Don Quixote, the narrator appears to be a heterodiegetic narrator despite his first-person address, because he doesn’t take part in the action of the story, which is dominated by Don Quixote and Sancho. However, at this moment in the text, the narrator switches to a homodiegetic narrative in which he centers as the one who discovers a text chronicling the rest of Don Quixote’s exploit with the Basque. This point in the text echoes the prologue to Don Quixote, which is the only other place thus far in which the narrator addresses us homodiegetically.
This passage is also interesting because the narrator calls attention to the concept of an omniscient narrator, who knows everything and can therefore record his characters’ thoughts as well as their actions. Jahn points out, “The fact that a heterodiegetic narrator has a position outside the world of the story makes it easy for us to accept what we would never accept in real life — that somebody should have unlimited knowledge and authority” (N1.15). However, in Don Quixote, coming at a point when the narrator emphasizes his homodiegetic tendencies, this claim of omniscience is more difficult to swallow. We tend rather to doubt the homodiegetic narrator’s ability to transcribe the main character’s thoughts accurately. Once again, we are led to doubt the reliability of the narrator in Don Quixote.