Let’s Hear it from the Narrator

Is it just me or does Karen Joy Fowler’s 2002 science fiction short story, “What I Didn’t See” have an invisible narrator.  Interestingly, the narrator points out the discriminatory acts the men collectively bestowed upon she and Beverly while in the jungle, but fails to mention her own name while introducing the cast of characters.  Which allows the reader the uninterrupted privilege of affectionately remembering her as, Eddie’s old, pre-menipausal, wife who just happens to outlive them all.  Her story begins where the life of the last male character ends.

Image found at-http://www.pointsincase.com/columns/nick-moose/gorilla-suits-me-fine

Fowler is careful to point out to the reader, obvious sexist thoughts and behaviors.  Yet, she chose to leave the narrator unnamed.  Her involvement, words, and even her free time were all dictated by men while in jungle.  I would argue that the author left her nameless to further illustrate the ignoring of her significance by her male counterparts.

Both women were asked to participate in an anti-gorilla killing campaign.  A campaign which ironically involved one of the two women killing a gorilla.  The insightful men on this excursion believed, that a photograph of a woman completing the act of murder upon a male gorilla, would leave a “shooting gorillas is for girls” taste in the mouths of would-be gorilla hunting males.  Unfortunately, the men who thought up this brilliant scheme killed so many gorillas before launching the anti-gorilla killing campaign, that their utopia inspired dreams never came to fruition.

Still in all of this excitement….  We never got the narrator’s name.  She was rushed back to camp for her safety.  While playing cards, the men lost track of Beverly, so they had better send the other woman back before they begin to beat on their chests.  It is not until all the men are dead that the poor women gives her version of the story.  Which unfortunately is limited due to what she was unable to see, for her own protection of course.  She sure was lucky to have all of those smart men protecting her, for without them she may have interjected a useable opinion, suggestion, or even a method of reasoning to further their cause.  But even without her they managed with only a mild case of life long traumatization, but they are men and they can handle it.  They had Eddie’s wife’s best interest at heart even if they did not respect her opinion or know her name.

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4 Comments on “Let’s Hear it from the Narrator”

  1. elliebrewster Says:

    Except for one thing:

    Why are you so sure that the narrator is telling us the whole truth?


  2. scitina Says:

    I thought this blog post was pretty interesting. I actually didn’t realize the narrator wasn’t given a name until I was going to write my post and didn’t have a name to match with the narrator. I agree and think this was done intentionally by the author to further demonstrate the sexist actions by the male characters and their treatment of the women. I think it could be taken farther at the end when she only takes the opportunity to tell her story when no one else is around to contest it. Does this have any significance? We’re told the whole story from this female narrator’s point of view but how different would the perspective be if we were seeing perhaps Eddie’s(who has a name!) side of things?

  3. Sci-Fi is the best, i love sci-fi movies, books and stuffs like that. I am a man of science that is why i love it -;.

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