Aspects OF Objective Narratology IN Mcgahern`s Amongst Women

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +


                        Ogunyemi, Christopher Babatunde

                        Department of English

                        College of Humanities

                        Joseph Ayo Babalola University

                        Ikeji-Arakeji. Nigeria



In 1969, Tzvetan Todorov is the first scholar to use the term narratology in his book which is entitled Grammaire Du Decameron. Ever since then this term has gained frequency and prominence in the literary and critical circle. Although narratology is a structural discipline, its applicability lends axiomatic credence to the analysis of other areas such as fabula and discourse, narrative and focalisation etc. The applicability of narratology in other disciplines strives for complete and total objectivity. Objectivity is projected in existing texts structure, in film study and its analysis, individual and community response to author readers/producers activity to the work of art. However, the various contributions of narrators cannot be underestimated. This include: the first degree narrator, second degree narrator which contributes tremendously to the objective and analytical context of the discussion in any given situation.John McGahern,’s Amongst Women combines all the narrative devises in one way or the other to show the movement of the story as it unfolds the Irish experience.

The author in this novel creates a former soldier Moran who fights gallantly in the war with his friend McQuaid. The story actually started after the war. Although the war had ended, for Moran the male protagonist, the war had not ended. He had to battle poverty and nothingness which had mostly preoccupied the experiences of ex –servicemen after the war. Moran was upright; he went into farming to save the family from dying of starvation. His farming pattern which is consistent and persistent was able to see the family through the huddles of hunger. Those experiences a common man in Ireland come across is what the author attempts to represent in this novel. Amongst Women. The novel creates many kinds of narratological elements ranging from occasional first person back to third person omniscient narrative that explains McGahern objective narratology. My intention in this review is to attempt a contextual analysis of the novel in line with objective narratology. I would attempt to show in the book how the author exploits his characters in demonstrating his narrative objectivity which becomes more manifested in the words used by the daughters of the Male protagonist, Moran. Many other events which the characters narrate point towards objective narratology as well. Words, events and activities in the novel coupled with some critical works show us the extent of narrative objectivity in some Irish fiction..


 Amongst Womendevelops the theme of contemporary reformation, it also reinforces the need for a change. In the novel, the daughters of Moran put a combine effort to instil the principle of change and new hope in their father who was not able to cater for all the children’s needs. The children were girls; they were diplomatic and dynamic in the handling of the family affairs. Moran feels resign in every aspect including the financial and other decision roles. Beginning from Maggie who is eighteen to Mona who is sixteen to the youngest, Sheila is fifteen when the plot begins, so many characteristic changes occur within the family particularly as they were about to celebrate the significant Monaghan Day. Monaghan day is highly symbolic because many invitees would come to Ireland and it would afford the children to help their father in the quest for a new direction in the running of the family business and activities.

 However, the family’s contact could still be maintained and many factors which need reconciliation would have to be carried out. Example is the sudden behaviour of Luke the accountant who gets his licence abrogated; he tries to create a new awareness in the development of the family as the plot unfolds. This warranted the reasons why the “girls” put up many activities in the family to bring their father back to life and to restructure the theoretical forces which shape the family. The novel employs objective narratology in many aspects: I would classify them into three segments here. The first is the historical level which spans the total experience of the Irish man. The second experiment is “Sjuzhet” which can only be two hours if the novel is put into acting. The third aspect is the “technical” aspect that is the rhetorical aspect of Amongst Women. Within this experience McGahern handles the fabula, discourse, narrators and their focalisers. Three types of objective narratives were seen in the novel. The narration of the author, the narration of the characters, the expressed intention of the audience. This leads us to the audience response approach because the audience are not left out in the whole narrative business.  Various expressions which were used in the literary, metaphorical, and ordinary embellish objective narratology in this novel.

The author uses third person omniscient point of view as focaliser to narrate the story. The story did not explain vividly how Moran and his colleagues fought the wars, but through the instrument of flashback we were able to see how dedicated a soldier he fought gallantly. The story recalls vividly how the male protagonist battles to sustain and control his family. The war he has to continue if he would have to survive the family’s unification. Although in the novel, the novelist did not put more words in the mouth of Rose, but through her many activities were done. She organises the undertakers to bury Moran and she purchases the expensive coffin that was used to bury Moran. The novel is a tragedy from the beginning to the end. Tragedy for the casualties that died at the battlefield, tragedy for the soldier, a fellow, McQuaid the poor black drunken guard was describing, tragedy for the ordeals of Moran, tragedy for the overthrow of men by women, tragedy for the poor behaviour of Luke, who, under normal circumstance is to unite the family at his father’s old age. Tragedy for Luke’s failure to turn up for his father funeral despite the information sent through telegraph which he ignored. Finally, tragedy for the death of Moran who died at the end of the novel. He did not live to enjoy the fruit of his labour.

Through objective narrative, the author presents Moran as a soldier, as a husband, as a father and as man who has to shape up base on the caution of his daughters which he dreaded. This re-invokes the theme of reformation in the novel. Mona warns him:

                    You have to shape up, Daddy. You can’t go on like this.

                    You are giving us no help   (p.1)

 The significant Monaghan day would enable the father shape up and build new hope; this is also “the day when McQuaid came from the farm Mohil and we had to make big tea” (5). The description of these activities depicts narrator’s objectivity to narratives. This best explains what Jonathan Crewe, a narratologist once said that good presentation in any narrative portray events and objectivity. The author also describes his characters in a way that the audience are not left out to judge the events as they unfold. Poor Black McQuaid who borrows money from Mona and other people in the novel is transformed as a man who harnessed his resources together in order to live a comfortable life. He now uses Mercedes Benz. The author describes McQuaid and Moran’s ordeal through the war experience by objectively putting this word into the mouth of McQuaid when he said:

                don’t let anybody fool you. It was a bad business. We didn’t

                shoot at woman and children like the Tans. But we were a

                bunch of killers. We got every good but there was hardly a

                week when some of us wasn’t killed. Of the twenty two

                men in the original column only seven were alive at the truce…

                That was the war, not when the band played and a bloody

                Politician stepped forward to put flowers on the ground (p.5)

With reference to objective narratology, the author allows the characters to freely express what they perceived of the society, their father and the family at large. This can be classified under the intradiegetic narration where the characters within explains their own views. The extradiegic is portrayed from the author’s perspective. The girls were very fundamental to the development of the plot. Their “overthrow” is a new dawn in the history of women liberation and gender imperative. Maggie is eighteen years old when the story began. Her sister, Mona is just sixteen. Sheila is fifteen. Luke is in London gallivanting while the girls at home help their parents with the farm work, they help in cattle maintenance and gathering the farm utensils’. They were, however, instrumental to the funeral arrangement of Moran, even when Luke disowned his father in death!

Maggie is tall, attractive, but she still shows some fear for her father as if she is a little baby in her eighteenth year. The respect in her influences her use of words. Mona clashes with the father in most cases, she offers objective criticism to the way the home is governed. For Sheila, the story is different, she is described as self centred, pretending to be sick to avoid home responsibility, farm work and she constantly challenges the father’s authority. The author describes the girls as follows:

                     No matter how far in talk the sisters ventured, they kept

                      returning, as if to a magnet, to what Daddy would like or

                      dislike, approve or disapprove of. His unpredictable violences

                      they discounted simply as they might be a tantrums of a

                      difficult child. (p.131).

       At the Monaghan day celebration, this catholic family sat together, many

        things they said show objectivity and narrative structuring. Before the

        event, McQuaid, was making all sorts of jokes while Moran pretends not to be

        bothered with these words. He said that “these girls are blooming. You better

        have your orchards well fenced or you’ll be out of apples by October” (p.11).

        The author is trying to tell Moran that his daughters are fully grown, he should

        Put definite shield and protection to avoid “devourers” men from having a

        field day on his daughter before they reach the marriageable age. This is  

        metaphorically tagged the “harvest time” around October when the apples are due

        for harvest .Even as adults, “Mona and Sheila came every other week from Dublin to the

        house to visit their parents and twice a year Maggie comes from London (p.130).

        This shows the high degree of responsibility bestowed on them as responsible

        children who still care for their parents. Despite their criticism of the activities of

        their father, they did not neglect their parents. If Moran had got all children as boys

        who follow the recalcitrant disposition of Luke, then, he would have regretted having

        come to the world.

        The children did not hate their parents in any way. The audience judgement

        is axiomatic. These children are real embodiment of a revolution which takes

        place in the family. From the beginning of the novel, the author assigns one role

        or the other to the girls. He assigns one speech or the other to them. This makes

        them stands out clearly. The author did not only celebrate the girls.At the funeral

        ground of Moran, one sympathiser came and remarked “That man would have

        died to see so much money go down with him into the ground”


         Alternatively “while others mourn him, some never, remarked Sheila. The way

         Michael, the Skit, is getting Sean and Mark to laugh you’ll think they were

         coming from a dance”(184).

The theme of family relations becomes manifested in the interactions that exist between Moran and his daughters. Moran rules his family with an iron will and punishes those who dare go against him. Unlike many patriarchs who give up their daughters to another man’s family when they marry, he considers their husbands to have joined his family and will obey him as his own. Unlike many patriarchs, he seems uninterested in the children of the next generation. His interest is not in continuing his bloodline, but the quality of those within it. The sisters are close and are described as if they were one person when they are together. They share Moran’s sense of family solidarity. Rose is accepted into the family by the daughter’s, but Michael’s wife, Ann is not.

Luke remains separated from the family and is able to function successfully from outside of it. The others are always trying to bring him back as if he is somehow making them weak for his absence. In their own ways….. (A Study Guide on Amongst Women).

       The author weaves the theme of family relations around narrative objectivity in

       narration. The reason is that he wants to portray a clearer picture of the events

       occurred to him. Many critics have observed that the story of Amongst Women

       Is the story of John McGahern. A review by the Reed Business information

       tagged the book as a capsule presentation of a family drama. It observed that:

A lyric lament for Ireland, McGahern’s lovingly observed family drama is dominated by an almost pathetic paterfamilias. Gruff, blustering Michael Moran, former guerrilla hero in the Irish War of Independence, is a man “in permanent opposition.” Now a farmer, he vents his compulsion to dominate, his cold fury and sense of betrayal on his three teenage daughters. Yearning for approval but fearing his flare-ups, they periodically beat a path back to the farmhouse from London and Dublin, then take flight again, both proud and dependent. Moran’s second wife, Rose, much younger than he, displays saintly patience in her attempts to heal this splintering family. Moran also claims a renegade son in London who is “turning himself into a sort of Englishman,” and another son driven away by Moran’s threats of beatings. McGahern ( The Dark ; The Pornographer ) has crafted a wise and tender novel whose brooding hero seems emblematic of an Ireland that drives away its sons and daughters. (Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

    To sum up, the whole idea of the novel is seen as a “family drama”, this drama is

    all about life. The voice of the author is constantly heard in the novel, though he

    pretends to allow the characters grow on their own expense. Narratology in this

    novel is perceived from the objective perspective. Characters are independent and

    the idea of communism and collectivism is entrenched when the daughters strive

    hard to make their father regain a new position. This is borrowed from Africa. A

    situation when the downfall of one is the downfall of all, and all intensify a

    frantic and concrete effort to solve a problem generally. The daughters strive

    assiduously to help Moran Michael regain a position through vibrant criticism and

    through suggested effort from their step mother, Rose who is frequently silent in

    most of the major plots. The novel is a tragedy of life that expresses that man is

    powerless in the face of physical and natural phenomeno


An Editorial Review culled from. Business Information/Study guide…..1990)

Crewe, Jonathan ”Literature and Cultural Memory” in Acts of Memory: Cultural Recall in the Present.Bal, M Crewe, J AND Spitzer, L (Eds). Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.1999.

McGahern, John. Amongst Women. London: Faber and Faber, 1991


About Author

Leave A Reply