M. Coetzee’s novel Summertime uses an unusual narrative strategy in regard to characterization, especially of the protagonist, John Coetzee. An essay about the novel’s stylistic aspects could address the author’s use of the interview format as a way of bringing in the opinions of numerous other characters.
A traditional novel that uses a single narrator might present a unified, clear vision of the main character. Instead, Coetzee has opted for multiple narrators, whose words are in turn mediated by the biographer, Vincent. As the author and Vincent move from one interviewee to another, each of their distinct visions of John emerge. The impact of this approach is to form a complex image composed of multiple small parts, much like a mosaic.
This multifaceted image might also be analyzed as fragmented and imprecise. The reader, along with Vincent, cannot know if any of the interviewees actually has greater insight into John than any other. One can also question their motives in speaking with the biographer: do they intend to provide accurate information? The broader impact of the multiple narrators pertains to the reader’s inability to know which, if any, is telling the truth or leading to a deeper understanding of John’s character.