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In One Thousand and One Nights, what is the effect of the narrator of the tales being a...

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amyjoblue | Teacher | eNoter

Posted July 22, 2010 at 11:48 AM via web

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In One Thousand and One Nights, what is the effect of the narrator of the tales being a woman, and are these stories told from a female perspective?

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted July 23, 2010 at 12:27 AM (Answer #1)

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The tales Scheherazade tells are spoken through a distant objective narrator who doesn't add comments or illumination (the opposite of a Jane Austen written narrator). Therefore the gender of the oral narrator isn't heard in the narrating voice. This is a complex narrator, though, because the frame story tells that Scheherazade is orally telling the tales, nonetheless we are reading the tales as they are being told. As a result, the narrator of Scheherazade's tales comes to us as a written narrator when in fact Scheherazade's tales are oral ones.

The only time Scheherazade's gender is recognizable in the text is during elements that compose the frame story, when she is with the King and her sister and the reader witnesses her while about to begin a tale or having interrupted a tale. At these times, the narrative element becomes more complex because there is a distant third person narrator who is narrating the frame and telling about Scheherazade, as is seen in "The Tale Of The Bull And The Ass."

Since Scheherazade's narratorial voice during the telling of her tales (regardless of the depth of nesting of tales as in "The Tale Of The Ensorceled Prince") is as distant a voice as the frame narrator's, there is no notable difference between the two and therefore no notable gender effect in the narration of her tales. In addition, the tales are told with the perspective on women that was extant during the era of their origination. Therefore scenes are recounted wherein women are beaten by husbands or kicked aside while unconscious by court officials. Women are also represented as sorceress and as those who engage in vile acts. Thus it must be concluded that they are not told from a female perspective, even though Scheherazade is the interior narrator, bearing in mind that the frame narrator who brings Scheherazade to life is of unidentified gender.

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