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The Invisible Woman Narrative Strategies in the Stone Diaries

The Invisible Woman Narrative Strategies in the Stone Diaries

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The "Invisible" Woman: Narrative Strategies in The Stone Diaries
Weese, Katherine L.
Journal of Narrative Theory, Volume 36, Number 1, Winter 2006,pp. 90-120 (Article)
Published by Eastern Michigan University
DOI: 10.1353/jnt.2006.0022 
For additional information about this article
Access Provided by Virtual University of Pakistan at 06/17/11 2:17PM GMT
 
The “Invisible” Woman:Narrative Strategies in
The Stone Diaries
Katherine Weese
To play with mimesis is thus, for a woman, to try to recover theplace of exploitation by discourse, without allowing herself tobe simply reduced to it. It means to resubmit herself—inasmuchas she is on the side of the ‘perceptible,’ of ‘matter’—to ‘ideas,’in particular ideas about herself, that are elaborated in/by mas-culine logic, but so as to make ‘visible,’ by an effect of playfulrepetition, what was supposed to remain invisible: the cover-upof a possible operation of the feminine in language. It alsomeans ‘to unveil’ the fact that, if women are such good mimics,it is because they are not simply reabsorbed in this function.
They also remain elsewhere. . . .
(Luce Irigaray,
This Sex Which Is Not One
,76)Giving voice to the voiceless and making visible the invisibleare two prime maneuvers in feminist poetics. (Rachel Blau Du-Plessis,
Writing Beyond the Ending,
41)
1. Introduction
Carol Shields’s novel
The Stone Diaries
presents the reader with achallenging narrative puzzle: the extraordinary violations of storytellingconventions include not only rapid shifts between first- and third-personnarration but also a first-person narrator who both recounts details of herbirth to which she could not realistically have access and appears to speak 
 JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory
36.1 (Winter 2006): 90–120. Copyright ©2006 by
 JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory.
 
even after the moment of her death. Generated from a seemingly impossi-ble narrative perspective, the novel prompts the reader to wonder who istelling this story. Many of the novel’s critics have concluded that the maincharacter, Daisy Goodwill Flett, is simply not a sophisticated, self-conscious enough narrator to have generated the whole of 
The Stone Di-aries,
positing instead that multiple voices weave the story of her life.However, reading the novel through feminist theories of narrative and the-ories of women’s autobiography provides a different answer to the ques-tion of who tells this story. I would like to consider
The Stone Diaries
as afictional autobiography, narrated throughout by Daisy herself, who adoptsmultiple voices in the act of employing various feminist narrative strate-gies to restore voice and visibility to her apparently voiceless, invisiblecharacter. Although Daisy initially appears to be thwarted by social con-structions of femininity, she might instead be viewed as a highly self-conscious narrator of her life story who distances herself from the charac-ter “caught in a version of her life, pinned there” (147). In Irigaray’sterms, she ultimately “remains elsewhere” in the narrative, outside of theconventional definitions that she seems at times to adopt.The plot of 
The Stone Diaries
is difficult to summarize because so lit-tle of it focuses directly on the main character, whose narration containscountless digressions into the lives and minds of other characters. But suf-fice it to say that Daisy’s story begins with her own birth and her mother’sdeath during the process of childbirth, and then progresses through herchildhood. Before being reunited with her father, Cuyler Goodwill, at ageeleven, Daisy is raised by a neighbor, Clarentine Flett, and the neighbor’sson Barker, whom Daisy later marries, following a disastrous first mar-riage. The sections of the novel that recount her childhood and two mar-riages also give a great deal of information about Daisy’sfriends, aboutthe Flett family,and about Cuyler Goodwill. The novel then turns toDaisy’s experiences as a mother, her subsequent work as a gardeningcolumnist, the death of her husband Barker,aperiod of depression inDaisy’slife, her later travels with her niece to pursue family history,hermove to a retirement community, her old-age illness, and finally her death.Each section of the novel, each major segment of Daisy’s life, modulatesin its narrative perspective, at times seeming to generate from Daisy’sfirst-person, autobiographical voice, and at other times seeming to gener-
The “Invisible” Woman: Narrative Strategies in
The Stone Diaries
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