What are examples of the three levels of narration, extradiegetic, hypodiegetic, and introdiegetic, found in Thomas King's short story "The One About Coyote Going West"?

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

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Diegesis means narrative in Greek, and a diegesis narrative is simply a narrative that is told through the narrator rather than shown through the characters actions. Stories that are shown rather than told are called mimesis narratives, which means imitation in Greek. One level of diegesis is extradiegetic. Extradiegetic contains the Latin root extra-, meaning "outside of" or "beyond." Hence, an extradiegetic narration is one in which the narrator remains "outside of" or "beyond" the story, much like an omniscient narrator. The narrator is not a character himself/herself and is telling the story as he/she observes it. We can actually clearly see extradiegetic narration in the opening lines. The narrator opens with the line, "This one is about Coyote," and then the narrator further describes Coyote as a "Tricky one. Full of bad business." These opening lines tell us two important things about the narration. First, the lines show us that narrator is using indirect characterization to describe Coyote. The narrator is not letting us get to know Coyote through hearing her speak or seeing her actions; instead, the narrator is simply describing for us what he/she wants us to know about Coyote. Since we are learning about the characters through the narrator's voice and not through the actions, we can see that this is a perfect example diegetic narration because we are being told the story rather than shown the story through action. The second thing these opening lines show us is that the narrator himself/herself is not the character Coyote. Since the narrator is not the characters immediately introduced in the story, we can clearly see that the narrator is remaining outside of the story, which means that the narrator is an extradiegetic narrator and this is an extradiegetic narration.

A hypodiegetic narration is also called a metadiegetic narration. If you also take a look at the Greek prefix hypo-, you'll see that the prefix means "under," or "beneath," while the Greek prefix meta- means "occurring after" or "beyond." Looking at both prefixes together shows you that a hypodiegetic, or metadiegetic, narration is a narration that takes place either beneath or beyond the normal narration. In other words, a hypiegetic/metadiagetic narration is a story within the original story, and it is usually an extra story that the narrator informs the reader of himself/herself. We also see a perfect example of a story told within the story starting on the second and third pages. Coyote briefly mentions names she thinks are responsible for discovering Indians and then next asks her grandfather, which appears to be one of the narrators, to tell the story of Coyote (apparently a different coyote) finding the Indians. The narrator begins the story at the top of page 97 with the lines, "Coyote was heading west," showing us that this story within the story is a perfect example of a hypiegetic/metadiagetic narration.

Also, when a narrator does tell a story to another character in the story, then that narrator becomes intradiegetic. The Latin prefix intra- means "among, within, inside." Hence, an intradiegetic narrator is a narrator that also becomes a character within the story. Once the narrator starts telling Coyote the story of a different Coyote discovering the Indians, the narrator has clearly become a character because only characters in a story can interact with each other and tell each other characters.

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