Narrator and point of view

The short story “Tony’s Story” by Leslie Marmon Silko is told by a first-person narrator who is also the main character.

The narrator describes the events in great detail, focusing also on his own feelings and opinions: “I was embarrassed to hear him yell so loud” (p. 175, ll. 9-10) and “I wondered why men who came back from the army were troublemakers on the reservation.” (p. 176, ll. 35-36)

As the story progresses, we realize that the narrator’s perspective becomes increasingly unreliable. The first clue is at the beginning of the second part, when he sees the cop in a gas store: “I stopped in the doorway and turned around before he saw me, but if he really was what I feared, then he would not need to see me – he already knew we were there.” (p. 176, ll. 43-45). This suggests the narrator sees the cop as having special powers. Afterwards, the narrator begins to see the cop’s face as distorted (p. 177, ll. 14-16) and tries to avoid looking at it (p. 179, ll. 2-5). The final proof of the narrator’s unreliable perspective is when he starts referring to the cop as “it” in the third part of the story: “ ‘It follows us every-where.’ ” (p. 180, l. 26). The narrator’s unreliability is caused by his superstition and fear. Perceiving the situation as hopeless, the narrator starts to believe that the cop is the embodiment of an evil spirit. In this way, the cop’s murder becomes justified in his mind. The fact that the rainclouds start to gather right after the cop is killed, just as the narrator apparently thought they would, could hint at some ambiguity in the story and might make readers think the narrator might be right. However, the narrative strongly suggests that he is wrong.


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