and Psychoanalysis


Earl Jackson, Jr.



Study Guide Five

Representing another subject’s speech
in speaking.

In ordinary conversation, each participant
generally speaks from his or her own perspective. But often a speaker also
conveys things that someone else has said. There are two basic ways to
do this in spoken language: direct discourse, and indirect discourse.

A and B are having a conversation
about C, who is not present. Earlier A and C had had a conversation without
B. Now A is telling B what C had said then. The two techniques available


Direct Discourse A quotes exactly what B said, and
marks those words off from A’s with a tagged construction: B as the subject
of a verb of saying, and the words B said bracketed in quotation marks
[if writing it down.]

B said, „[B’s exact words].“
Indirect Discourse
A paraphrases B’s speech, changing
the person of the verb and the tenses as necessary. the tag now contains
an additional clause marker, and [if writing it down] no quotation marks.

B said that [content of B’s speech].

    Let’s bring
back Gudrun and Jezebel to illustrate these techniques. The two are having
coffee and looking over various grammars in order to categorize the languages
according to the way subject and object are marked by the case system assigned
to nouns. Gudrun is taking the nominative/accusative languages and Jezebel
the ergative/absolutive languages. The previous evening Gudrun had dinner
with their colleague Jonathan, who seemed to be prone to mood swings. At
the beginning of the meal he had seemed depressed, because of the way his
office mate had been treating him. When Gudrun asked him to explain, Jonathan
merely mumbled, „Meril hates me.“ But by the middle of the meal, Jonathan
cheered up dramatically. In fact, at one point, he whispered, „I have something
to tell you.“ He  then stood, raised his glass as if making a toast,
and announced to Gudrun and the entire restaurant, „I am going to Georgia!“
Gudrun was concerned about the mood swings and wanted to discuss Jonathan’s
behavior with Jezebel, and to tell Gudrun the news Jonathan had given her.
Gudrun has two techniques at her disposal for conveying what Jonathan had

Representing a character’s thoughts
in a fictional narrative.

    In written fictional
narratives, the writer can represent not only what characters say, but
also what they think. There are three techniques for representing
a characters thoughts: direct discourse, indirect discourse, and free indirect
discourse. While direct and indirect discourse are used in both speaking
and in written narratives, in the latter, the differences are visibly indicated
by the presence or absence of quotation marks. Because a fictional narrative
is presumably written after the time of the story it tells, the narrative
will affect the tenses in the indirect and free indirect discourse in ways
that are not always necessary in the indirect discourse used in speaking. 
The other  difference between the spoken and written forms is the
number of verbs of thinking and perception that can be used in the tag
of the indirect discourse representation of the character’s thoughts.

Free Indirect Discourse

Indirect discourse conveys the meaning
of the other party’s speech or thought, but does not reproduce the exact
words of that speech or thought. Nevertheless, the text clearly distinguishes
the speech / thought of the character and that of the narrator with the
use of the tags as shown above.

Free indirect discourse is a technique
in which the writer conveys what the character thinks through the same
kinds of paraphrase that is used in indirect discourse,but in this case
the tags are removed, thus the discourse is both „indirect“ and yet „free.“
The tags are not necessary, because the differences between the narrator
and the character’s thoughts are conveyed by the grammatical transformations
performed on the character’s thoughts in the representation of them. 
Below are the transformation rules with an example:


Direct Discourse Jonathan thought, „Meril hates
„Meril hated me last year,“

Jonathan thought.
„Meril will hate me when she reads
this,“ Jonathan thought.
Indirect Discourse
Jonathan thought that Meril hated
Jonathan thought that Meril had
hated him last year.
Jonathan thought that Meril would
hate him.


of Transformation
Direct Discourse: Indirect Discourse
First Person  Third Person
Present Tense Past Tense
First Person Third Person
Past Tense Pluperfect Tense
First Person Third Person
Future Tense Conditional

Free Indirect Discourse removes
the tags from the indirect discourse. In the case charted in the table
below,  Jonathan is the protagonist of a short story, a third person
narrator, focalized through Jonathan’s consciousness.


Direct Discourse Jonathan thought, „Meril hates
„Meril hated me last year,“

Jonathan thought.
„Meril will hate me when she reads
this,“ Jonathan thought.
Indirect Discourse
Jonathan thought that Meril hated
Jonathan thought that Meril had
hated him last year.
Jonathan thought that Meril would
hate him.
Free Indirect Discourse Meril hated him. Meril had hated him last year. Meril would hate him.

Among the most celebrated examples
of an extended use of free indirect discourse in Western European literature
is Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary.  The novel tells
the story of Emma Bovary, a country doctor’s wife who reads romance novels
and aspires to a life as rich and as passionate as the lives in those novels.
She is bored by her husband and stifled by village life.  In her quest
of the life she dreams of, Emma has two rather tumultuous love affairs
and spends money so recklessly that she ruins her household finances. In
shame, desparation, and from disappointment at what life had to offer,
she takes arsenic and dies.  Flaubert was arrested and charaged with
public indecency. At the trial the inability of the prosecution to specify
exactly what was immoral about the novel vividly suggests that it was precisely
the free indirect discourse that rubbed people the wrong way. Emma’s fantasies
and persepctives pervaded the third-person narrative. Thus, there was no
completely „objective“ narrator to judge Emma from a safe distance, and
no stable and certain voice of normative morality in the presentation of
Emma’s life.

A Fictional Method.

Now for the very important qualification regarding free
indirect discourse. Above I have provided a model for the grammatical transformations
that „direct speech“ and „direct thought“ undergo in order to be rendered
as „free indirect discourse.“  But these operations are never really
performed on direct thought to render „free indirect discourse.“ Even in
ordinary conversation, the represented speech of another person merely
is constructed as if it were mechanically translated from the actual speech.
This is a logical fiction.  The change in the person and tense of
a reconstructed thought of the character does not indicate that the words
or expression in the text were part of the original thought. Many of the
ways that Flaubert’s narrator conveys Emma’s feelings is through extended
metaphors that might never have occurred to Emma, but which are an analogy
to the feeling that Emma had at the time. It frequently happens, moreover,
that the free indirect discourse presentation of the character’s thoughts
will use language and make connections that the character would not have
been capable of making, nor would it have understood them had it heard
them.  And there is a reason that makes this technique a utter fiction,
so basic that it is easy to skip over it:  free indirect discourse
presentation of a character’s thoughts in a novel, cannot possibly
be the mechanical application of the person and tense of the verb on the
original thought. There was no „original“ thought. The character
does not exist. The „original thought“ is the effect of the thought created
by the free indirect discourse.

Even the most straight-forward seeming presentation of
a character’s consciousness through free indirect discourse will involve
many other factors, operations of meaning, and other indices of subjectivities
and other representational conventions that will both enrich the text and
make it difficult to extrapolate a single method for the production of
a uniform and immediately identifiable „mind“.  A novel that deploys
free indirect discourse never does so exclusively. It can also use direct
discourse, indirect discourse, stream-of-consciousness, narrated monologues,
narrated perceptions, etc. There are many kinds of  third-person narrators
too, each defined by the limitations the writer has placed on it and the
privileges the writer has granted it. What type of third-person narrator
will also affect the ways in which the character’s subjectivity gets expressed.
An omniscient third-person narrator often remains invisible and without
any personality (Flaubert’s narrator is no-one.) Others, especially from
earlier periods in the history of Western narrative, may assert a personal
voice occasionally, intervening in the plot to comment directly upon the
characters. Henry Fielding’s narrator in Tom Jones does this quite
a bit. Henry James usually deploys a third-person narrator whose omniscience
is scrupulously constrained within its particular privileges. His narrator’s
usually focalize the action of the story  through one consciousness
at a time, but which consciousness that is can shift from scene to scene.
William Faulkner experimented with impossible interior monologues of his
characters, most notably in The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay
, and Absolom, Absolom. Virginia  Woolfe’s most radical
experiment in narrated monologue is her novel The Waves.

Other writers are known for greater cognitive and epistemological
restrictions placed on the third-person narration. Hemmingway’s narratives
present the action and the world of the action and characters from a completely
external view, never venturing into the minds of the characters, never
breaking the boundaries between individual consciousnesses or between the
neutral narratorial consciousness and the isolated and secreted consciousnesses
of the characters. In The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett’s narrator
demonstrates the same reserve, never giving us a glimpse into the mind
of Sam Spade, letting only Spade’s actions speak for him.  A particularly
striking example of this reserve can be found at the beginning of Chapter
Two in which a phone call wakes Spade in the middle of the night, which
tells him his partner Miles Archer has been murdered. The narrator describes
in minute detail Spade’s smoking of a cigarette, but nothing Spade says
during that very brief phone call nor anything Spade does during that careful
external scrutiny of the narrator gives the reader any information whatsoever
on what Spade felt about this news.


telephone-bell rang in darkness. When it had rung three times bed-springs
creaked, fingers fumbled on wood, something small and hard thudded on a
carpeted floor, the springs creaked again, and a man’s voice said:

. . . Yes, speaking. . . . Dead? . . . Yes. . . .  Fifteen minutes.

A switch
clicked and a white bowl hung on three gilded chains from the ceiling’s
center filled the room with light. Spade, bare-footed in green and white
checked pajamas, sat on the side of his bed. He scowled at the telephone
on the table while his hands took from beside it a packet of brown papers
and a sack of Bull Durham tobacco.

steamy air blew in through two open windows, bringing with it half a dozen
times a minute the Alcatraz foghorn’s dull moaning. A tinny alarm-clock,
insecurely mounted on a corner of  Duke’s Celebrated Criminal Cases
of America – face down on the table – held its hands at five minutes past

thick fingers made a cigarettte with deliberate care, sifting a measured
quantity of tan flakes down into  curved paper, spreading the flakes
to that they lay equal at the ends with a slight depression in the middle,
thumbs rolling the paper’s inner edge down and up under  the outer
edge as forefingers pressed it over, thumbs and fingers sliding to the
paper cylinder’s ends to hold it even while tongue licked the flap, left
forefinger and thumb pinching their end while right forefinger and thumb
smoothed the damp seam, right  forefinger and thumb twisting their
end and lifting the other to Spade’s mouth. 

Hammett The Maltese Falcon Chapter Two.


Madame Bovary persuaded her husband Charles, a country
doctor, to perform a new kind of surgery on Hippolyte, a person of the
village, who had a club foot. Charles studied the kinds of club feet there
were: equinus, varus, and vagus, and determined Hippolyte’s was an equinus,
and then cut the cord appropriate to that diagnosis. The foot was placed
into a wooden harness box for the duration of recovery. Hippolyte, however,
contracted gangrene, and another surgeon had to be brought in to amputate
the leg. Charles and Emma sat at home during the operation, both tense
but for different reasons. This passage demonstrates how Flaubert used
free indirect discourse for more than one character.The scene while told
in third-person, includes the conciousness of both Charles and Emma alternately.


Bovary . . . 
stayed downstairs in the parlor, sitting beside the empty fireplace with
his chin on his chest, his hands folded, his eyes staring straight ahead.
„What a disaster!“ he was thinking. „What a disappointment!“ And yet he
had taken every possible precaution. Fate had taken a hand in it. Just
the same, though, if Hippolyte should die later, it would be he who had
murdered him. And then what reason could he give to his patients when they
questioned him? Perhaps he had made some mistake after all. he tried to
think of what it might be, but found nothing. Even the greatest surgeons
sometimes made mistakes. but no one would believe that! Everyone would
laugh at him, slander him.  . . . 
. . . Emma, sitting
opposite him, was looking at him. She did not share his feelings; she too
was filled with humiliation, but it was of a different nature: it came
from having imagined that such a man could amount to something, as though
she hadn’t clearly seen his mediocrity twenty times before! . . .
 How could
she have misjudged him so seriously once again, she who was so intelligent?
Furthermore, what deplorable mania had driven her to ruin her life with
constant self-sacrifice? She recalled all her yearnings for luxury, all
the privations of her soul, the degradations of hermarriage and housekeeping,
her dreams fallen into the mud like wounded swallows, everything she had
desired, everything she had denied herself, everything she might have had!
And why, why?
In the midst of
the silence that hung over the village, a piercing shriek suddenly rent
the air. Bovary turned deathly  pale. She frowned nervously, then
resumed her thoughts. It was for him that she had made all those sacrifices,
for that creature, that man who understood nothing, felt nothing. 
. . .
„But maybe it was
a valgus!“ suddenly exclaimed Bovary, who was meditating.
At the unexpected
impact of this remark, crashing into her mind like a lead bullet into a
silver dish, Emma started and raised her head, trying to understand what
he meant.
Part One Chapter XI.

    Notice that both texts are third-person
narratives, and each one includes at least one of the characters actually
speaking aloud. Each text describes a character or characters facing a
difficult piece of news (Archer’s death, the amputation of Hippolyte’s
leg.) In the former, we get no information about Spade’s feelings; in the
latter we get detailed information of the feelings of both the characters. 

In the first paragraph of the Bovary excerpt, there is
an example of direct discourse followed immediately by free indirect discourse.
Find these and identify them clearly. What is the function of the insertion
of direct discourse here?

In the excerpt below, Emma and Rodolphe, who have been
interested in each other for some time, finally succumb to temptation.
Note the paragraph in which they succumb is followed by a break in the
chapter. The text resumes with a description of the landscape, focalized
through Emma.



The broadcloth
of her dress clung to the velvet of his coat. She tilted back her head
and her white throat swelled in a sigh.  She suddenly felt weak and
a long tremor ran through her body; weeping and hiding her face, she abandoned
The above paragraph is a semi-external description with
no free indirect discourse, but consider this paragraph after the lovemaking.
Evening shadows were falling;
the sun’s rays, streaming horizontally through the branches, dazzled her
eyes. Here and there, all around her, among the leaves and on the ground,
were shimmering patches of light, as though hummingbirds had scattered
their feathers in flight. Silence lay over everything; the trees seemed
to be giving off something soft and  sweet; she felt her heart beating
again, and the blood flowing through her flesh like a river of milk. then
she heard a long, lingering, indistinct cry coming from one of the hills
far beyond the forest; she listened to it in silence as it mingled like
a strain of music with the last vibrations of her overwrought nerves. 
Madame Bovary Part One Chapter IX

Both texts are third-person narratives, and therefore
passages that are ostensibly descriptions of the character’s environment
in which the character her or himself is not speaking should include sentences
that seem similar. But note how the sentences in Hammett’s text are deliberately
isolated from the subjectivity of Hammett or the non-personal narrator.
They are as
resistant to psychological meaning
as any passage in any novel of Alain
. But similar kinds of sentences in Madame Bovary
are serving at least two purposes: to depict the world and the events that
occur and to present the subjectivities of the characters that inform cognition
of that world, and the significance of those events. The world as described
is a vehicle
to reveal the psychological, cognitive, and ethical structures
that comprise the „selves“ formed by that world, just as the world presented
to the reader expresses those „selves“ to since the world-as-presented
is the world-as-experienced by those characters, who have become those
selves through experiencing the world as they do.

 Bonus Tip!.
For those of you particularly interested in free indirect discourse, I
would like to recommend one of the most extraordinary extended uses of
the technique since Madame Bovary, Dorothy B. Hughes’s novel, In
a Lonely Place.
The novel is entirely unlike the film version,
and will achieve an affective range that Flaubert never attempted. The
novel is focalized through a war veteran in Hollywood who happens to be
a serial killer. Hughes‘ modulation of the technique reveal the killer’s
experience of the world while keeping it remote and incommunicable to both
the reader and the killer is an amazing tour de force.

Besides the singular third-person narrative there
are texts with multiple narrators, both first-person
and third-person. Consider  Samuel Richardson’s epistelary novels,
and  Clarissa Harlowe,  James‘ „The Turn of the Screw,“
Bram Stoker’s Dracula,
or The Ambiguities,
Allen Poe’s
Narrative of  Gordon Pym, Andre Gide’s Les
Faux Monneyeurs,
for example.  The narrator of Lawrence Sterne’s
, is a first-person narrator that impossibly assumes powers that
only a fictional third-person narrator of a fictional world are conventionally
allowed, but this is a self-conscious experiment and an aberration that
advances the development of the novel and ways of exploring the relations
between language, signifying practices, and subjectivity. One of the most
dazzling and audacious descendents of Sternian narratorial transgressions
is the San Francisco-based writer Kevin Killian. I highly recommend his
novel Shy, which goes beyond Sterne, Gide, and Proust, concocting
a subjectivity that is thoroughly postmodern as it is actualized as an
ironic consciousness of its own impossibility. The novel is difficult but
also extremely fun, funny, and touching at the same time.1


Free indirect discourse in Sarah Canary.

In Madame Bovary, the passages most clearly marked as
free indirect discourse (hereafter FID) are those whose emotional content
must be the character’s, since the third-person narrator does not exist
in the world of the story, and thus would have no emotions of its own to
express. In Sarah Canary, the free indirect discourse undergoes certain
variations. The marker for free indirect discourse also differs depending
upon which character’s consciousness it represents. For example, B. J.’s
free indirect discourse is marked by B. J.’s cognitive distortions, as
he is a partially delusional patient at the asylum in Steilacoom. Any passages
which describe B. J.’s delusion as unmarked fact are free indirect discourse.
Some will include both direct discourse and indirect  discourse, but
others will have no external marker-sentences.

B. J. had the job of filling the water buckets and supplying
the firewood for the kitchen.  Ross, the manger of the kitchen was
brutal and  frightened  B. J. . This is the background of B.
J.’s first meeting with Chin the asylum kitchen, when Chin had taken the
job of cook there.



Ross’s knife caught the light
at the edge of B.J.’s vision and he turned toward it. Suddenly it was the
largest knife B. J. had ever seen. Sunlight spread on the flat blade whenever
Ross’s hand was still. When it moved, the blade of the knife sliced the
sunlight into small, flashing pieces.
  There was a code to the
flashing light. The knife wanted many things. The knife wanted the winter
turnips and the last of last year’s potatoes and the side of beef hanging
in the pantry. The knife wanted the Chinaman’s braid. Lay it across the
table and cut it off. Three blind mice. Three blind mice. The knife sang
Karen Joy Fowler, Sarah Canary

Often Chin’s reactions to events are based on his situation
as a Chinese man in the U. S.. And his fears of certain situations are
based on his knowledge of things that have happened in the U. S. to the
Chinese. Because of this, passages that include free indirect discourse
representations of Chin’s consciousness are often dominated by history.
This makes for complications other than those in the B. J. FID passages. 
Before going into those complications, let’s look at an early example.


Looking down at them, from the mud wall of the creek, were two Indian children.
Chin hardly saw them. They were there, black-haired and black-eyed and
solemn, and then they were gone. Chin’s legs buckled beneath him and he
fell on his knees. Water slid inside his boots.

His heart refused to return to his chest. Indians, it thumped. In-di-ans.

The woman, who was looking at him and seeing nothing, lifted her voice
in rapture.
2. Some
years back the Indians along the Columbia River had murdered the first
Chinese they saw simply
because they did not
recognize them as a viable natural category
They were not Indian. They were not white. They were
one-winged birds
; they were wrong. They were
dead. . . . 
3. There
had been another ugly incident when the Indians back in the eastern part
of the state had driven a camp of Chinese miners over a cliff, herding
them up the slope and into the air. They were
against the sky; they were stones against the earth
Chin wanted to see no more Indians. He wanted this badly.
Karen Joy Fowler, Sarah Canary

1. I have color-coded
phrases and sentences in the above passages. In paragraph 1, there seems
to be nothing that could be considered FID except possibly the sentences
in blue. Read them over carefully. Do you find any that you would consider
FID? If so, which ones? And of those that are not FID, what are they? These
are not rhetorical questions.

2. The incidents that this passage relates must
be incidents that Chin knows of, since these are to explain his fear. But
who is narrating them here? Since these are stories that Chin knows well,
it is unlikely that he is telling them to himself at this moment of the
story. Therefore the sentences synopsizing the incidents are probably not
free indirect discourse. And particularly problematic in paragraph 2 is
the passage I mark in red. This seems to be an explanation for the incident
that would not come from Chin in the first place. So who is the source
of this information? But what about the phrase, „one-winged birds“? Where
does that come from?

HINT: this phrase is definitely an example of
FID. How are does the FID extend from this phrase?

3. The phrase in paragraph 3 in orchid must be a version
of Chin’s thoughts at one time regarding this incident. I changed the color
here to indicate another sub-category I mean to develop peculiar to Sarah
. This phrase is not only FID, but the images in it will thematically
link to another segment of Sarah Canary. But that segment is not
FID and not a narrative nucleus but an index, namely the story of Su Tung
P’o and the immortals that Chin tells B. J.


Guide One-A Guide Two Guide Three Guide Four Guide Five Guide Six

Online Resources
for Semiotics
Online Resources
for Writing Systems
The Midquarter The Syllabus Model
Student Work

and Psychoanalysis


Earl Jackson, Jr.



Subjectivity in Language.

Free indirect discourse is only
one of any number of techniques and signifying operations within narratives
that convey forms of subjectivity. Let’s think about this in terms of Emile
Benveniste’s work in linguistics.

Consider his essays, „Subjectivity
in Language“ and „The Nature of Pronouns.“


1. For a narratological study of Killian’s
novel, Shy, and his memoir, Bedrooms Have Windows, see: Earl
Jackson, Jr,, Strategies of Deviance. Chapter Five.