Frame Narratives

What is a FRAME
• In a nutshell, a frame narrative is
a “story within a story”
Examples of FRAME
• Titanic – (the movie) the story of “Old Rose”
revisiting the site of the Titanic “bookends”
the love story of Jack and “Young Rose”
onboard the ship in 1912
• Forrest Gump – Forrest (in the present) is
telling his life story (of Forrest in the past) to
various citizens on the park bench
• Can you think of any others?
Another way to view FRAME
• We can look at frame narratives as a diagram
• For example, with Titanic:
“Old Rose”
Love story of “Young Rose”
and Jack
Life of Pi
• Martel uses a FRAME NARRATIVE
• Martel is the “real” author of the novel, Life of
• The story begins with an Author’s Note,
narrated by an anonymous author figure
• This creates the illusion that the book is
fact/real, when in fact it is FICTIONAL
• Why do you think he may have done this?
Life of Pi
• The italicized passages are the voice of
an anonymous author who is writing a
story, told in Pi’s own words
• These passages provide a description of
how he learned about Pi, as well as his
interviews with Pi in the present day.
Life of Pi
• The story has THREE narrative “layers” (plus a
“mystery” layer...)
• The author of the novel itself, Yann Martel
• The “author” of the Author’s Note (who is talking
about meeting with Francis (Mamaji) Adirubasamy and
interviewing “real” Pi while researching for the novel
• Piscine Molitor Patel in present day who is narrating
the story of his younger self
• There is one more narrative layer or “voice” to this
story that is yet to be discovered. See if you can figure it
out by the end of the novel…
Life of Pi
• Now that we have all the layers or “voices” for our
FRAME NARRATIVE, draw a diagram to represent them
Yann Martel
Author’s Note
Pi Patel the Narrator
So what is the PURPOSE of a
• The shifts in point of view (POV) serve to create a
sense of verisimilitude
• Verisimilitude – the appearance of something to
be real or true – when what we are reading
appears to be true
• e.g. A character in a book cuts his/her finger and
the finger bleeds. We believe it is happening – if
the book said the cut finger produced sparks of
fire rather than blood, the story would NOT
possess verisimilitude
So what is the PURPOSE of a
• Even fantasy or sci-fi novels/stories which deal
with impossible (or very improbable) events can
possess verisimilitude if the reader is willing to
suspend their disbelief
• Willing suspension of disbelief – when a
reader/viewer temporarily and willingly sets aside
their beliefs about reality in order to enjoy the
“make-believe” of a play, novel, poem or movie
– e.g. We can watch Harry Potter without feeling
“gullible” as long as we, the audience, set aside our
sense of what is “real” for the duration of the movie.

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