Apr 14 2013

John Wray’s “Lowboy” Captures the Schizophrenic Mind through Free Indirect Discourse

Published by at 6:17 pm under Uncategorized

In John Wray’s novel Lowboy, which is about the misadventures of a schizophrenic teenager in the New York City subway system, the author exposes the schizophrenic mind through the use of a narrative method known as “free indirect discourse.” Free indirect discourse is a style of third-person narration that contains first-person thoughts and speech. When done correctly, it can transport the reader from an objective perspective to the subjective point-of-view of the character without using quotation marks.

For instance, on pages 93-94, when Lowboy is on the train heading toward his love interest, Emily, the narrator explains, “Unreality broke over him again, stronger and more emphatic than before, but this time he was able to endure it. It’s a wave, that’s all, he told himself. A wave like any other. You can ride it like a surfer if you want to.” Had the narrator directly explained the protagonist’s thoughts, the effect would be different: the reader would not be examining Lowboy’s mind but would instead be examining the narrator’s assessment of Lowboy’s mind.

It is also interesting that on page 94 the narrator provides the reader with Lowboy’s mental map of the train car. In a sense, this illustration is a form of free indirect discourse, too; the narrator shows us (third-person narration) a picture Lowboy produces in his mind (first-person).

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “John Wray’s “Lowboy” Captures the Schizophrenic Mind through Free Indirect Discourse”

  1.   Ariel Shapiroon 14 Apr 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I didn’t read Lowboy, but in looking at other blog posts for this assignment it seems that you and Tracy picked up on the same thing. I admire the author’s ability to utilize language in such a way that the reader’s experience of the text is completely transformed. I have no idea what it is like to be schizophrenic yet, somehow it seems that if I were to read Lowboy I would know what it would be like to be schizophrenic. I think Haddon accomplishes a similar thing in enabling the reader to enter the mind of an autistic teenager however, he seems to accomplish it quite differently.

  2.   Tracy Engon 14 Apr 2013 at 9:11 pm

    It’s good to know I wasn’t just misreading things and there was indeed a first-person presence at times even though the text is written in third-person. I think Lowboy is the first text I have read having this writing style of free indirect discourse and I honestly really enjoyed it. I like the examples you provided and the visual map the author provided was rather unique. I personally was impacted the most when Lowboy goes to purchase the cupcakes in the store; the text made me feel the bystanders’ discomfort as well as Lowboy’s own anxiety made the situation so much more “real” to me.

  3.   Jason Tougawon 15 Apr 2013 at 12:42 pm

    It’s great to see that you made this connection, between Tracy’s point and Robert’s. I do think it’s the free indirect discourse that makes the third person feel like first.

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