What narrative techniques and plot devices did Henry Miller use in his novel Black Spring?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Narrative technique refers to any method a writer may use to narrate a story and convey the intended message. Narrative techniques can also be called literary techniques or literary devices. Narrative techniques can include point of view, plot elements, and style elements, among others.

Like many of his works, Henry Miller's Black Spring is a very Surrealistic novel. Surrealism is a literary and visual arts movement that began in the 1920s as a reaction against the rationalism Western society had built its culture and politics upon, the same rationalism that led to World War I. Instead of rationalism, Surrealism celebrated the unconsciousness by creating fantasy and dream worlds. Miller uses narrative techniques to create his Surrealism.

One narrative technique that takes the narrative out of the realms of rational thought and into Surrealism is the frequent change in point of view. As we can see by the use of the pronoun "I" in the first sentence, "I am a patriot--of the Fourteenth Ward, Brooklyn, where I was raised," the story is narrated in the first-person point of view. The narration also dominantly remains in the first-person point of view. However, the narrator also switches to speaking in second person as he analyzes his own thoughts, as if inviting his readers to accept his thoughts and experiences as their own. We can see an example of his switch to second-person point of view in the third paragraph in which he analyzes what it means "to be born on the street":

To be born on the street means to wander all your life, to be free. It means accident and incident, drama, movement. It means above all dream. A harmony of irrelevant facts which gives to your wandering a metaphysical certitude.

Since the narrator is addressing the reader as "you," the narrator is inviting us, the readers, to participate in understand what it means to be street-smart by picturing ourselves, not the narrator, on the streets.

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