Unit 4 English
Essay Question: 'Anna is not an objective observer, but this is not a problem. Her subjectivity enhances the impact of Stasiland.' Discuss narrative point of view in Stasiland.

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[Answer posted as comment removed because of length.]
Thanks for the excellent answer, @Alastair Gumley. I've reposted your answer as an answer.

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Essay Question: 'Anna is not an objective observer, but this is not a problem. Her 4.30pm - 6.00 pm?.' Discuss narrative point of view in Stasiland.
“Uwe, I’ve been having Adventures in Stasiland...I’ve been in a place where what was said was not real, and what was real was not allowed, where people disappeared behind doors and were never heard from again, or were smuggled into other realms (p.120)”

Objective Observer: As a non-fiction text what are the reader’s expectations? Factual accuracy? A “balanced approach”? No bias or prejudice? Journalistic approach based on fairness? A careful handling of the interviews, perhaps even a “verbatim” report without embellishment or hyperbole? A narrator who is omniscient and does not play an active part in the narrative? Do you find this? If “Yes” then where? If “No”, then where and why does she play a part? To what extent? How reliable is she as a narrator and can this be easily verified?
Narrative View Point as a Problem: Does the reader trust the narrator to be truthful and authentic? Why? Why not? Is Funder “reliable” as a narrator? If so, why? If not, then why not? Does either view alter what you “feel” about the “truth value” of the stories she relates? If “Yes”, then what does it alter? If “No, then how does Funder’s claims to veracity appear to be credible?

Is there an ethical compromise here between Funder’s revelations about the “hidden” subject matter (Stasi control and the apparent free and complete coalescence of the total populations (with only minimal resistance)of those who served the Stasi, the need to tell a story that many would not wish or want to either remember or believe? Are the private stories an antidote to the claimed ignorance, complicity and apathy of the peoples of the GDR?

Does Funder “own” story parallel the deceit, lies and absurdist claims of the GDR?
Does her personal story allow “slight embellishment” and the addition of personal anecdote as an antidote to the universal distortion of truth practised by the Stasi, in order to reveal that “truth is often more revealing than fact” ?

Narrative Point of View in Journalism (Non-fiction) – Read the following links:

Funder’s “Stasiland” makes claim to be “non-fiction”, which it may give the appearance of being, but to what extent is it non-fiction or are there the flourishes of an autobiographical journey in her telling of her stories and in the selection of her interviews and what she reports and how she reports it that imply partiality and bias? Are their author controlled embellishments of the truth (as in most first person narrations) that serve Funder’s opinionated interventions to present continuity, action, interest, amazement, incredulity and sympathy? Does this “subjective” point of view also involve some degree of unreliability on her part and are we not totally dependent on her credibility to authenticate the facts of her equally biasing interviews? What questions does she neatly avoid or leave open that may still leave the reader able to trust her judgment and accept her view as authentic and having truth value?

Funder’s style may be best described as “narrative journalism” a term that is currently growing as a genre. She clearly and at times somewhat candidly places herself at the centre of her investigation into a world that sees her as an outsider. Her charm affects a self-parodying characterisation, which encourages the reader to identify with her personal predicament and her desire to find an answer to a deceptively simple question. She adopts a clearly observational style in that what we are told is guided by her experience and her perspective – she is the “detective” and we, the readers follow her progress as a search for “truth”, as she has revealed to her the means, the motive and the opportunity through “eye-witness” testimony of both the victims and the perpetrators.

Check her use of literary techniques, especially Figurative Language (metaphors, similes and analepsis). These are simply the “colouring” of Funder’s psychologically journey; note her use of self-deprecating humour and tendency to personal anecdote. Her appeal to “truth” as a journalist is that her reportage often asserts (rather than individually tests) accuracy. She appears well-informed (and therefore verifiably “truthful”) by presenting eye-witness testimony, and factual historical evidence that exposes the “terror” employed by the Stasi.

Autobiographical – Point of View but this shifts – combines first and third person narrator:
• The reader is reliant of her capacity as a truth-teller
• She is a guide through history as though she is taking us with her through a time warp, conscious of where she is, where is going to and methodical in her desire to reveal a past that is denied by a generation as though it did not happen.
• Funder is both “observer” and “subjective participant” – without her there would be no story.
• She is clearly an “outsider” but this allows her to gain an intimacy with her subject matter and her subjects that is dualistic – it disarms and allows the victims to reveal their courage, it shames and reveals the perpetrators in their cowardice.
• She does choose sides

As in all first person narration the question of trust and then reliability is raised.
p. 202 “She may not be worthy of our trust, but she is all we have”
Journalistic Appeal: Inform, Educate, Expose, Account, Entertain
What to look for? Examples and evidence from Funder’s stories (characters and journeys):

• How does Funder reveal herself to the reader, by candid descriptions of her involvement in the search for “truth” and how she (as an outsider) claims a privileged position?
• How does Funder reveal her sources and often the struggle to find them? Is there a bibliography or just acknowledgement of sources? Why? When?
• How does Funder use the “omniscient narrator” from time to time to heighten tension and create immediacy in describing a past event? Search for examples.
• How does she bias her point of view with descriptions of the atmosphere and mood, with the reader having to accept what she describes as though is objective commentary? Rather than just her well informed “opinion”?
• How does she display her sympathies and antipathy for her sources and interviewees, and biases the reader against the Stasi personnel?
• Look for adjectives and adverbs that describe individual character and how she reveals the “absurdity” of the Stasi operatives as they try and justify what they did.
• Examine how she uses “The Wall” as both a literal and figurative symbol that still casts a shadow of nostalgia, and yet ironically, even to this day, projects another unworldly influence on all who had come into contact with its physical barrier and its psychological intimidation of the individual.

[Source: Credit to the answer from VCE teacher Alastair Gumley posted in the comments section.]

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