The Hans Christian Andersen Center

Summary of Ameliea 'Amy' van Marken:

"Replikkunsten i H. C. Andersens roman 'O.T.'".

This paper has been published in Andersen og Verden, Odense 1993.

The Art of Speech in Hans Christian Andersen's Novel O.T.

Amy van Marken

(summary for pages 289-94)

There has been a lot of controversy as to the genre of Andersen's novel O.T. (1836). In my opinion it represents a hybrid genre including many different elements. In this paper one more distinctive feature of the novel will be added: the spoken discourse element. To begin with, different aspects of Andersen's narrative technique in O.T. are discussed. Firstly, the relation between the fictional, omniscient and omnipresent narrator and his narratee, the fictional listener/reader, both represented by a "we". This communicative situation is extended to the implied reader, who manifests himself in the commentary text, the notes, the allusion-technique, the gaps, the postulated high cultural level of the text, the ironical situations and remarks and the hints to circles and persons in Andersen's entourage. On a higher level than this hidden dialogue lies the dialogue between the real author Andersen and his reading public both inside and outside Denmark. Secondly, the different textual elements of the novel are defined:

l. Narration of simultaneous and past events. Flashforwards, gaps and suppressed knowledge increase the suspense.

2. The presentation of characters and, in particular, their records of speech which, together with the description of the setting, constitute coherent sequences and scenes.

3. A commentary text from the intrusive narrator and from the author with the implied reader as addressee.

4. A reporter text in which the narrator acts as a tourist guide.

Concentrating on the records of speech in O.T., the main interest is focused on their form and function. The presentation of speech is rendered in direct and indirect discourse, narrative (quoted) report of speech and free indirect discourse. These utterances are nearly always accompanied by quotation verbs, often extended with para- and extralinguistic signals. The form and function of direct discourse in O.T. is brought into special focus.

The many polylogues in the material are remarkable. They contain general information, personal characterization and social criticism. Furthermore, it is striking how the course of events is revealed in records of speech (poly- and dialogues in direct discourse), and not by narration in indirect or free indirect discourse. The polylogues show certain resemblances to the fairy tales in so far as we may find here the same humour and subtle irony and the wonderful mini-portraits of minor characters.

Real monologues are not found in O.T. Instead we find records of thought, nearly always accompanied by a quotation verb and in direct discourse. However, long monological records of speech are used in discussions or to render important epic material. The many dialogues are attached to the different themes of the novel, to the individualization of the characters, and to the plot. Here again it is noteworthy that Andersen avoids narration when dealing with the course of events.

Both in the poly- and dialogues Andersen shows his mastery in characterization and in the shifting of stylistic levels, using both jargon, social and regional varieties of language, lyrical, rhetorical, literary and colloquial style. Authentic spoken language does not appear. An analysis of the interaction and turntaking technique and of the way of joining the speech records were omitted for lack of time.

Finally, some remarks on the commentary text. Whenever the narrative is transferred from one place or moment to another, the narrator addresses the narratee, included in the "we", in direct discourse. His aphoristic commentary is directed to the implied reader. Most interesting is the meta-narrative commentary (part II, third chapter): again a dialogue with the implied reader as addressee, while the chapter ends with an ingenious commentary dialogue between the narrator and his narratee. The quantitatively and qualitatively rich representation of speech records in O.T. support my proposal to define O.T. as a dialogue novel - without rejecting earlier genre definitions.

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