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Daniel P. Gunn

In free indirect discourse (FID), the narrative discourse of a text incorporates the language and subjectivity of a character, including emotional coloring, deictics, judgments, and style, without an introductory attributing frame like “she thought that” and without shifts in the pronouns or the tense sequence to accord with the character’s perspective. By combining the immediacy of direct quotation and the flexibility of indirect discourse, FID allows for the seamless integration of a character’s thought or speech, with all of its distinctive markers, into the narratorial discourse. Because FID occurs in the context of narratorial discourse and allows for a fluid movement back and forth between narratorial and figural subjectivities, it characteristically entails a mixture or interplay of two voices—the narrator’s and the character’s—in the same utterance, as in parody or mimicry. The evocation of a character’s thought or speech through FID and its relation to narratorial commentary and report can be subtle and nuanced, and identifying and making sense of FID sentences requires significant interpretive activity on the part of the reader. FID has been a crucially important technique for the representation of consciousness in the English novel, particularly in the tradition which runs from Jane Austen through George Eliot to Henry James, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce, which concerns itself increasingly with the imagined thought-lives of characters. Depending on the context, FID passages can be presented sympathetically, inviting the reader to immerse herself or himself unreservedly in the character’s thought or speech, or ironically, with the language of the character creating a dissonant effect against the background of the narrator’s discourse and the novel’s design. FID is also sometimes referred to as style indirect libre, free indirect style, represented speech and thought, or narrated monologue.


Ōe Kenzaburō and Murakami Haruki are known for their persistent interests in various authors of world literature, especially those writing in English. From their early days, they read novels in English, a custom that helped them to distance themselves from traditional Japanese literature; they thus cultivated modes of writing free from the aesthetics and ways of thinking cherished by their predecessors. Several authors had great impacts on their literary views; in Ōe’s case it was William Blake, in Murakami’s F. Scott Fitzgerald. The styles of both Japanese authors were influenced by their encounters with the English language. The issue is not purely linguistic; alternative modes of writing inevitably bring about changes in narrative styles, moods, characterization, and even a fundamental sense of values that underlies the fictional world. Ōe and Murakami unmistakably played definitive roles in postwar Japanese literature. Their responses to the world that surrounded Japan after the war offer a way to understand the psyche of the Japanese people in the 20th and 21st centuries. American influence can be observed in many other novelists writing after the 1980s, too, including Yasuo Tanaka’s Somewhat Crystal (Nantonaku Kurisutaru), together with Murakami Ryu and Yamada Eimi. The novel is often seen to mark the onset of postmodernism in Japan, as it presents an extreme case of consumption-oriented life, which, combined with fascination with imported cultural icons, typifies Japanese reception of the West, particularly America. Significantly, Tanaka’s novel was endorsed by the conservative critic Jun Etō and led to the nullification of the border between traditional and popular literatures.