24 June 2011
Structure and Characterization: A Narratological Analysis of Edgardo Vega’s The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle
In The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle, Edgardo Vega Yunqué attracts readers by writing a novel with an unconventional form. Throughout the story, the narrator, talks directly with characters and gives speeches that have no real substance. In fact, when characters speak to the narrator they have different names, which implies that the characters are simply actors in Vega’s story, but have entirely different lives that are not a part of the story. While the story appears to be chaotic and hopeless, it is actually done purposely, and it can be structured with the help of Narratology. However, in order to fully grasp this story we must learn the basics of Narratology for a clearer understanding.
In “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative,” Manfred Jahn explains that there is a structure for a narrative. The narrator and the reader can share a communication “on the level of nonfictional communication” (N1.7). Jahn continues to say that the narrator and audience correspond “on the level of fictional mediation.” The nonfictional communication in a story between a narrator and the reader is hard to grasp. It seems that this can carry two different forms. The first is an unspoken form of communication, where the reader and author do not actually speak, but are aware of each other in some way. The second form is when the author literally speaks to the reader by addressing them in the story. Vega constantly communicates in the story with the reader. For example, chapter thirty begins with “This is what is called a transitional chapter. Here is where the reader gets caught up on what’s happening with all the characters who matter” (225). Vega is addressing the reader. However, it becomes interesting. It is not immediately obvious that Vega is the narrator of this chapter. Jahn explains that in a homodiegetic narrative the narrator is “one of the story’s acting characters” (N1.10). In a heterodiegetic narrative, the narrator “is not present as a character in the story” (N1.10)
Jahn states that a flat character is “A one-dimensional figure characterized by a very restricted range of speech and action patterns. A flat character does not develop in the course of the action and can often be reduced to a type or even a caricature (e.g., “a typical Cockney housewife”, “a bureaucrat” etc.). Flat characters are often used for comic effect” (N7.7). He defines a round character as “A three-dimensional figure characterized by many, often conflicting, properties. A round character tends to develop in the course of the action and is not reducible to a type” (N7.7). In The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle, we see a transition of Maruquita’s character from a flat character to that of a round character. In the quote below we are given a conversation between Maruquita and her mother discussing the evolution of Maruquita.
“Who are you?” she finally said. “Did SBS do some more Star Trek magic and put Mr. Spock’s brain inside you? And you cut your hair, aren’t wearing makeup, and took off your earrings. Are you an extraterrestrial who has taken over my daughter’s body?”
“No, nothing like that has taken place,” Maruquita replied. “I’ve simply taken matters into my own hands. I got tired of playing the P.R. homegirl bozo, and I’m ready to assume my rightful role in the development of our people.”
“But you’re so different,” Flaquita said, her voice at once tremulous and awed by her daughter by her daughter. “You seem so bright, so articulate, so self-assured.”
“I figured it out Mom.” Maruquita said.
“Figured what out?”
“It’s quiet simple.”
“Maybe for you.”
“It’s like this. I can change into a monkey or a squirrel and even a peacock of imposing presence and beauty, a presence that represents power and esthetic pleasure. If I can change into such representations, I can change in to anything.” (Yunque p322)
At the start of the book we are introduced to Maurquita. She is simple, easy-going, and restricted character. She is shown as a sidekick to Omaha. The reader considers her an afterthought. The main character is Omaha. When he goes on to cheat on her, Maurquita’s character is shown as this powerless person. Throughout the book she is portrayed as an uneducated and silly girl. The characters of other females are there to show a comparison. The other females are all described as educated and hardworking individuals. Maurquita’s character even becomes highly jealous of the character of Winnifred, who Omaha loves. Towards the end of the book we see a change in Maurquita. She changes her appearance as well as her persona. She has the power to change into anything and that’s what she does. She transforms into an educated young women. She becomes more mature and changes her look. She does a compete 180.We see this change in Maurquita’s character because she gives up trying to break Winnifred and Omaha’s relationship. Her character transforms and develops a power that she didn’t have at the beginning of the novel. She is more confident and that is what makes a round character, someone who gains a voice and substance.
Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” 28 May 2005. Web. 24 June 2011. .
Vega Yunqué, Edgardo. The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. Woodstock, New York: Overlook, 2004. Print.