Talk:Unreliable narrator/Archive 1

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Early discussion

Stories told by narrators who come to appear unreliable raise unsettling questions about the limitations of human knowledge.

What? :) --Shallot 20:35, 27 Mar 2004 (UTC)

It seems you misunderstood my point: I have no idea what that means. Please elaborate. --Shallot


I've made some changes to make this definition a little more rigorous and more clear, but this entry still needs work. Feel free to edit. Bds yahoo 18:44, 1 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Should films be credited to their directors, or their writers? I had credited Memento and The Usual Suspects to their writers, but some of the others are credited to their directors. I figured that the writers were responsible for the stories, just as the authors of novels are. --Arteitle 21:18, Oct 22, 2004 (UTC)

The Usual Suspects

Note by elpincha 21:38, 15 Feb 2005 (UTC) : The Usual Suspects (the movie) is *not* narrated by Verbal Kimt.
Okay, can you be more specific about who is narrating it? It's been a while since I saw the film, but I recall that most of the story was presented as it was being told by Kint to Kujan. The plot summaries at the IMDb seem to concur that Kint is the one telling the story. --Arteitle 01:36, Feb 16, 2005 (UTC)
Everything in The Usual Suspects, (except for the first ten mins or so, which are shown 'live'), is unreliably told by Verbal Kint. JP Godfrey 16:39, 15 December 2005 (UTC)
I just don't know though that Usual Suspects belongs. I would think that an unreliable narrator would be someone that doesn't know the truth. Verbal Kint is lying and at the end of the movie there is no ambiguity that his story is complete nonsense. He is a realiable narrator, reliably untruthful. --Gangster Octopus 18:41, 9 January 2006 (UTC)
According to the page, a first-person narrator, the credibility of whose point of view is seriously compromised, possibly by psychological instability, or a powerful bias, or else simply by a lack of knowledge. I agree with that... the whole beauty of the unreliable narrator is that their biases and problems have all kinds of implications on the story. Lack of knoweldge is only one possible type of unreliable narrator. --W.marsh 18:57, 10 January 2006 (UTC)

The restriction to first person narratives certainly makes sense, but wouldn't you say there are some classic examples in third person narrative: Crime and Punishment, Queen of Spades? In these narratives, we have a psuedo-omnipotent narrator, but the way he gets into the characters' heads is misleading. Tricky issue to deal with.

The Usual Suspects is definitely a better example of a movie with an unreliable narrator than some of those listed. --jacobolus (t) 10:27, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

The deliberate unreliability of the narrator in The Usual Suspects make it a prime example of this genre. And please don't remove good examples simply because they were not cited as such, by putting them here, WE are citing them for the first time! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:12, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Life of Pi and Usual Suspects

Question/comment for Calbaer on your cancel of my edits: What/where are the instructions to follow that you mentioned for new claims. Granted, I wish I had looked at the talk page before adding Usual Suspects, however, Suspects is mentioned under Examples, so why not on the list? If the argument is about Kint lying vs. being ignorant of facts, then wouldn't that put Roger Ackroyd out of the category as well? And as for Life of Pi, I can't see why that book would not be an example of Unreliable Narration. I've read this article and I've read that book... do I need to find someone on line whom I can cite that has made the same observation? If so, why? KConWiki 14:34, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Right before each list is a statement that new entries should be reliably sourced or they will be reverted. This is in keeping with Wikipedia's policies and it has the benefits that, if it's difficult to find a reliable source, it is likely that either (1) the work does not have a truly unreliable narrator (2) the work is not well known enough to function as a good example. The importance of examples is not how relevant you think they are, but how reliable and useful they are to others, so, even if you found a reliable source (as defined in WP:RS) for, say, Pi, consider whether or not the addition of the work to the list would benefit potential readers. Regarding the grandfathered-in works, yes, it would be best if everything were sourced, but, in order not to have few examples, we've kept in the most obvious of the older examples, and hopefully someone will take the time to source them eventually. Calbaer 16:36, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester

This is a most amazing example of unreliable narratorship, I will not spoil the plot for anyone who has not read the book, but give yourself a big treat and read it.

Fight Club

Should Fight Club be added to the list of films?

         And is it completely neccesary to spoil the book and movies ending?

Alpha order?

Is there any particular reason the entries are alphabetised by author's given name? I'd think that family name would make more sense, or possibly the title of the work, but I figured I'd post here first (I don't have time to do the sort now anyway ;). /blahedo (t) 01:41, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

I agree completely - alphabetizing by first name is highly non-standard. 5dots 18:51, 10 January 2006 (UTC)
I have gone ahead and re-alphabetized them. Along the way, I noticed that the possessive " 's " seems to be applied poorly for some of them. I can never keep straight when it is supposed to be just apostrophe, and when apostrophe-s, so if someone else feels up to having a look, that would probably be useful. 5dots 16:22, 17 January 2006 (UTC)

Conrad and Fitzgerald

I notice an absence of such works as "Heart of Darkness" and "the great gatsby". Also is it not reasonable to link unreliable narration to modernism?

While unreliable narration might be mentioned in conjunction with modernism, as it is indeed present in many modernist works, I don't think this link should be overstated. Unreliable narration is at least as old as Chaucer--probably as old as story-telling itself. And writers from other eras of literature, like Carlyle, Melville, Eliot, and Hawthorne, assume unreliable narrators--or, just as frequently, "absorb" the unreliability of a given point of view into their third-person narrative voices. In fact, the quintessential unreliable narrator is Tristam Shandy, from the 18th century. You could argue Robinson Crusoe was unreliable, that the epistolary form in general plays with unreliability... Etc. etc.

The Great Gatsby does not have an unreliable narrator. If anything, Nick is careful to avoid making judgments on the characters' actions until the very end. While there is a source given, I am not sure one person's opinion over a range of scholarship that says the opposite needs to be given so much weight. I think the book should be removed from the list. --Danahuff 19:34, 17 October 2007 (UTC)
I concur. Even the reference itself mentions that other scholars treat him as a reliable narrator. I have yet to see any evidence showing that Nick is unreliable. Instead the reference argues an abstract notion of "distance" is what introduces the unreliably. (Ho hum. There's this unfortunate tendency in literature circles to go against the grain to make waves, even if it means promoting an untenable position.) Google searches and the source given suggest that at least as many if not more scholars believe Nick to be reliable, therefore there's at best controversy about Nick's narration and at worst this single source's view is an outlier. Given that, the book should not be used as a quintessential example of unreliable narration by being used in this list. I'm going to remove it. Jason Quinn (talk) 17:23, 20 April 2013 (UTC)

Silent Hill

This may be a minor little detail but as a fan of the Silent Hill games I was wondering if anyone would agree with me that Silent Hill 2 belongs on the list under video games?

Viperas 06:20, 14 January 2006 (UTC)Viperas

The Princess Bride

While I might agree that the novel should be included on the list (Goldman invented the book's history--that is was an existing novel that he edited--and used that device extensively in the novel), I'm not so sure about the film. The Grandfather doesn't alter the tale, and the closest he comes is honestly answering (though not elaborating on) his grandson's questions about what happens at the end of the story. If we're talking about the sequence where Buttercup dreams that she marries Humperdink and is verbally assaulted by the old woman, I think the movie makes it clear (after the fact) that this is a dream sequence. Just a thought. Dynayellow 14:12, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

Name the narrators

In the list of fiction that includes unreliable narrators, I think it would be beneficial to name the narrator that is unreliable in each case. This would be helpful to reader understanding, IMHO.

Trial of a Time Lord

Should Doctor Who Season 23 be added due to the Valeyard's corruption of the Matrix? Hogtree 09:23, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

I for one would like an explanation of why Dire Straits are considered proponents of the unreliable narrator. DJ Clayworth 21:36, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

Most of the songs included simply have a narrator with a personality we know to be other than the singer's. This might lead to dramatic irony, but it's not helpful in a list of unreliable narrators. Same goes for a lot of the films and books: an ooh, gosh moment is not sufficient for unreliable narration.


I believe that Chris de Burgh should be added to the musicians section, citing songs such as "Crusader", juxtaposing a variety of highly biased narrators, and "The Painter", narrated by a murderer about the man he hopes to pin his wife's murder upon.

Also, why isn't H.P. Lovecraft included? I don't think ANY of his narrators were reliable. Several stories, such as "At the Mountains of Madness" end with the narrator sinking into terrified gibberish, doubtful that the reader could ever believe the dire warnings offered.

Justifications for inclusion in the list

The list is just a list of things with no indication of why each was included. Why is "The Clockwork Orange" considered to have an unreliable narrator? Why are any of the items on the list? -- Each item should have at least a brief mention of why it's included. Ravenswood 18:09, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure that each item on the list needs its own explanation, but I do think there needs to be better criteria for inclusion. It seems people are having trouble distinguishing a true unreliable narrator from a narrator who merely has some kind of bias or quirk. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius blurs the lines between autobiography and fiction, but the reader understands that from the beginning - I don't think it's quite the same thing. Also, why Holden Caulfield? Also, the list of films is far too long - many of these simply have a twist ending. What constitutes unreliable narration for a film? I don't get the inclusion of The Matrix, for a start. --Grace 13:23, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Silent Hill Discrepancy

Silent Hill series (Harry Mason, James Sunderland, Heather Morris, and Henry Townshend)

I'm not sure I would say that every protagonist from the Silent Hill series bears mentioning. Certainly James Sunderland, perhaps even Harry Mason, given that he's not sure what's going on. But Heather and Henry aren't even really the narrators per se, they're just going along with what they've been thrust into. How about as a compromise, it's changed to: the Silent Hill series (James Sunderland in particular)

If you strongly disagree then at least give a reason before you revert. Levid37 11:54, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

Blade Runner

I'm curious if anyone else thinks that Blade Runner might qualify, in that it's often claimed that the Director's Cut implies that Deckard himself is a replicant, casting a very different light on his role as someone who hunts down rogue replicants.

PK Dick should certainly be listed among the authors using the technique. Total Recall is probably the premier example of a film using the technique. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:31, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

The List = Fail

The list isn't serving a purpose really. It is too long and inclusive to really provide good examples, it is too inclusive t0o help people who may be having trouble with the concept (as many of the works listed either only slightly reflect the device, or the subtleties are lost in the gimmick), far too many critical works are missing for it to be exhaustive.

Possible solutions:

1. Split and fill out to something more exhaustive, though I garauntee you as they simply become long lists they will come under observation and likely be removed.

2. Remove them now, not much of a solution.

3. Parr them down to a few good examples, or classically used examples from a number of different media (and if you are embracing this and decide to keep some comic books they should really be split from other fiction as the demands and restrictions of that format are signifigantly different from pure text works).

4. Some combination of 1 and 3, leaving a small number of examples in the article and group all those removed into a more comprehensive list linked as other works with an unreliable narrator.

-- 13:17, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

I have taken the liberty of removing the list. These kinds of lists just invite people to keep adding more and more examples and don't serve to help actual understanding of the topic. The list for this article was especially bad since it was overlong, poorly organized (why on earth were the films alphabetized using the director's first name?), and many of the examples did not actually involve unreliable narrators at all. The list was only confusing things. The body of the article already gives examples of several well-known works with unreliable narrators, and Wikipedia is not a list repository anyway. If people want to add more examples, they should work them into the text of the article. CKarnstein 07:02, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
That makes the article text unwieldly pretty quickly. I understand the arguments against a list, but it was there for a valid reason: Having a place to house examples, both to help readers and to relax any requirements in "policing" the prior text of the article. It's a lot easier scanning a list of examples than reading through paragraphs of text, both for those who want examples and for those who want to make sure added examples are good. If the list should be shortened or reorganized, that's one thing, but, as the original poster said, removing it isn't much of a solution. By the way, alphabetically by first name was probably chosen so that it would be consistent with other lists on Wikipedia (and so there would be no debates about which part of the name was the last name). Calbaer 20:55, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, you may not like it, but removing the list and incorporating any significant examples into the article text is exactly what the Wikipedia MoS says should be done. It may be "easier" to scan a list of examples, but it's not actually more helpful. The list doesn't explain what it is about these works that makes them examples of the unreliable narrator device, much less what makes them notable examples. If someone did not already understand what the term meant, simply reading that the movie Rashomon and Eminem's song "Stan" both have unreliable narrators isn't going to help them. CKarnstein 02:02, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
There are already examples in the text. But if someone isn't familiar with them, it's good to have a list of more examples to give a better idea. A definition is quite lacking if it is not accompanied by examples the reader is familiar with. A list without definitions and (some) explanations would also be lacking. And a full explanation of every example would be overly long. This strikes a good balance, and having a list does not make the article a "list repository." As the guideline you cite concludes, "We have to try to put ourselves in the readers' frame of mind and ask 'Where will I likely want to go after reading this article?'" I'd say the answer to that is "a familiar example," and the readers should be given a list from which they can choose examples most familiar to them. Calbaer 04:12, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
You have taken that quote out of context. It refers specifically to lists of links to related topics, not lists of examples within an article. The most relevant quote in the Embedded list guideline is right near the top: "Instead of giving a list of items, the significant items should be mentioned naturally within the text." There's no point in arguing with me about how great lists are, because our respective opinions about lists aren't the issue here. CKarnstein 05:53, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

The list should stay because it does not detract from the article's clarity. If what you want to know is what an unreliable narrator is, you'll read the definition and leave. But if the main body of text piques your curiosity, you'll want to discover more examples of unreliable narration. You'll then scroll down the page to find the list. Some of the examples in the list will be familiar to you, others will not; you might be interested in finding out more about the latter, which is a good thing. If you don't care about discovering more examples, it'll take you about half a second to scroll down to the references section.

As long as the examples are valid, there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn't appear on the list.

Marquis de Barrabas

-- 17:06, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I'm surprised that Robert M. Pirsig's classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not listed. For me, it's one of the best examples of the unreliable narrator. Persig uses the first-person narritive style, which traps the reader in the narrator's head, and it's not until the end of the book that the truth becomes evident. Royhills 20:31, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

Wuthering Heights

How does this qualify? The story's two narrators, Nellie Dean and Mr. Lockwood, both seem reliable enough. DurovaCharge 02:42, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Nellie Dean clearly dislikes both Heathcliffe and Cathy, and so her descriptions of their behaviour is coloured throughout to such an extent that the reader cannot trust her gossip as being a literal account of what happened. Mr. Lockwood is mostly re-telling what he has been told by Nellie, so that the novel becomes the second-hand passing on of gossip. Pearce.duncan 01:02, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

Money, Money, Money and the Marching song

Why were these songs edited out?

In "Money, Money Money", the narrator is a money-obsessed floozie. In "The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions", the narrator is a stereotypical fat cat.

{Ok, what I wanted to say was that we perceive the world through the eyes of the money-obsessed floozie and the fat cat, and that their perception is notoriously (and - from the authors' point of view - intentionally) biased, which makes them unreliable narrators. Marquis de Barrabas --Marquisdebarrabas 17:19, 30 January 2007 (UTC) }

Both textbook examples of songs with an unreliable narrator. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Marquisdebarrabas (talkcontribs)

What about the narrator of "Money, Money, Money" is unreliable? The song is a fantasy about the singer marrying a wealthy man, a fantasy shared by many a reliable woman (and, if we can reverse genders, man). An unreliable narrator is unreliable not unlikable or of a different viewpoint than the artist. "The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions" doesn't have an article on Wikipedia, it being a tune buried in a poorly received 1990 Billy Bragg EP. That's quite arcane, and these are supposed to be illustrative examples, not random examples or songs that you happen to like. I wouldn't mind this list being longer, but the examples should be accurate and notable. Calbaer 08:03, 29 January 2007 (UTC)
By the way, I've got two Bragg albums, so it's nothing against him. I just want the examples to be good ones, especially because some people think that such lists are bad, and they're easy to attack as unverifiable (since reliably sourcing each example would be a bit onerous). The unreliable narrator technique is less common in song than in prose. I have a hard time thinking more up, although perhaps "Jeremy (song)" should be added, its being told from the point of view of a bully. However, like I said, the narrator should be clearly unreliable, not just unlikable. Calbaer 17:14, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

How shall I put this: you got “Money, Money Money” wrong. This is not an autobiographical song; by 1976, Anni-Frid Lyngstad was an international star on her own right, not a desperate gold-digger. If you had bothered to look into ABBA's repertoire, particularly their earlier work, you would have discovered that ABBA's songs often tackle social problems using a third person perspective. In "He is your brother", for instance, you hear, in addition to the chorus (the voice of conscience), two different voices, that of a reformed bully and another one belonging to a “career girl”.

“Money, Money, Money” takes this one step further, using an unreliable narrator to criticize money-obsession while seemingly glorifying it. It surprises me how you (or anyone) could miss the irony of the title, or the censure it implies (to go no further).

As to “The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions”, your elaborate justification doesn’t convince me. The song may not be very well known, but the artist who composed it and sings it is. An obscure song by a famous artist certainly belongs in the list, particularly since it is such a perfect example of a song with unreliable narration.

I have also added Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution” to the list. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Please reread what I wrote. You are arguing for the very point I'm making! I said "An unreliable narrator is unreliable not unlikable or of a different viewpoint than the artist," which you responded to by showing how the narrator of the ABBA song was, indeed, of a different viewpoint than the artist. The narrator of "Sympathy for the Devil" is unreliable, not because Mick Jagger isn't Satan, but because Satan (especially as portrayed in the song) isn't reliable. According to your definition — that the author isn't the protagonist — every work of fiction with a narrator would be unreliable because it's fiction. That's not only inaccurate, it's silly.
And, since you think my justification is "elaborate" for "The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions," I'll put it quite simply: An example that few people understand is worse than no example at all. It wastes space and decreases understandability.
The Pearl Jam song is a better example; I was about to add "Jeremy," but that's not as good an example as "Stan" or "Short People." "Do the Evolution" isn't the best example either, but it's a whole lot better than "Money, Money, Money."
Finally, please sign your comments. Calbaer 00:22, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Do yourself a favour and listen attentively to “Money, Money, Money”. I didn’t put it on the list because the narrator is unpleasant or because its opinions are different than those of Anni-Frid Lyngstad. I put it on the list because, for the last time, the narrator of the song is unreliable. She (the narrator, not Lyngstad) is a would-be gold digger and she offers us a perspective on the world which is influenced by her erroneous beliefs, namely, that not being rich is a curse and that life is made meaningful by wealth: “So I must leave/ I have to go/ to Las Vegas or Monaco/ I’ll win a fortune in a game/ My life will never be the same”. ABBA used an unreliable narrator in “Money, Money, Money” to criticize people who are obsessed with money. In “So long” (So long, see you honey/ You cant buy me with your money), for instance, they offered the same criticism without using this literary device.

As to “The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions” it has appeared in the original The Internationale disc, its remastered and expanded edition [1], it is mentioned in Billy Bragg's biography which you can find on his official site [2], it has appeared on a 1990 compilation by Elektra Records [3] and it is mentioned in each and every Billy Bragg fan page that I have visited so far.

It wastes space and decreases understandability.

It does neither. The song stays.


"Do the Evolution" isn't the best example either

Would you care to back this statement?


Randy Newman's "Political Science" and "Sail Away" also belong to the list. Added.

--Marquisdebarrabas 06:39, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

In the above section "The List = Fail," many people argue against these lists, "The list isn't serving a purpose really. It is too long and inclusive to really provide good examples, it is too inclusive t0o help people who may be having trouble with the concept (as many of the works listed either only slightly reflect the device, or the subtleties are lost in the gimmick)." I responded that a good, short list could be properly maintained. Unfortunately, you're making a good argument against that.
If you like "The Marching Song" so much, make a page about it, then link. It'll still be an obscure song, but at least then curious people can see what it's actually about. I'll even make the link to starting a new page for you.
And you still haven't answered my question about what makes your other fave song unreliable. I've read and reread the lyrics. Fantasizing about marrying a wealthy man does not compromise the credibility of a narrator.
As for "Do the Evolution," it could be taken sarcastically or satirically, which are slightly different devices from that of the unreliable narrator. But it does have the advantage of being arguably true and a song that your average person might've heard. So I'll leave that in if you'll let me take out the ABBA song and, if you don't make an article about it, the Bragg song. The alternative is a revert war, which will likely result in people saying that the list should be nixed, that if people can't agree on the list, then clearly the list violates verifiability and it isn't reliably sourced to boot. If you want any list at all, please compromise.
By the way, the Newman songs are excellent examples, but the one-song-per-singer convention is there so that the list will remain illustrative rather than exhausive. A comment in the main text might be more appropriate. Calbaer 06:54, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

And you still haven't answered my question about what makes your other fave song unreliable. I've read and reread the lyrics. Fantasizing about marrying a wealthy man does not compromise the credibility of a narrator.

First of all, "Does Your Mother Know", a "fave". "Money, Money, Money": not a "fave".

Now, I've answered your question already. It's not the fantasizing about marrying a wealthy man, it's the distorted perspective of reality that the narrator exhibits. This song was written by two men, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus [[4]] who most certainly did not believe that money leads to happiness - I've given several examples of other ABBA songs where materialism and money obsessing are frowned upon; yes, it is true that the authors don't agree with the narrator, but that is not the point, it never was. Andersson and Ulvaeus created a shallow, deluded, biased, unreliable narrator who, through Lyngstad's voice, speaks her mind about what could change her life for the better, and all the while exhibiting an unrealistic view of a rich person's life ("I wouldn't have to work at all/ I'd fool around and have a ball (...) Always sunny/ In the rich man's world). The authors know it, I know it, the astute listener knows it.

How difficult is it to admit that one has underestimated a seemingly superficial song?

As to the Bragg song, I will certainly write a little article about it.

--Marquisdebarrabas 07:58, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

The lyric you excerpted is extremely similar to those of the song "If I Were a Rich Man":

If I were a rich man, Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum. All day long I'd biddy biddy bum. If I were a wealthy man. I wouldn't have to work hard. Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum. If I were a biddy biddy rich, Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.

I'd build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen, Right in the middle of the town. A fine tin roof with real wooden floors below. There would be one long staircase just going up, And one even longer coming down, And one more leading nowhere, just for show.

So you'd probably say that's an unreliable narrator, too? After all, he wouldn't build a staircase leading nowhere, would he? It's not. He's fantasizing about wealth and using hyperbole. Fantasy and hyperbole do not an unreliable narrator make.
You obviously think I don't understand the song in question. You probably think that I hate ABBA or something. I don't. Many of their songs are good songs. I don't misunderstand the song. You misunderstand what an unreliable narrator is. There are many literary devices which are easily confused with that of an unreliable narrator. We need to make sure the examples are good so that others aren't confused (and, like I said, so the lists aren't attacked or deleted).
Anyway, I guess this could be a "teachable moment": If someone wants to change the text to emphasize that satire, sarcasm, fantasy, and hyperbole are different devices, that might make the article better and eliminate confusion for some people. Calbaer 17:46, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

How many more times do I have to explain this? The narrator of "Money, Money, Money" is unreliable because its

credibility (...) is seriously compromised.

It is compromised because of

a powerful bias

The listener cannot trust the narrator because her perspective of reality is biased and therefore not trustable. This is not about the narrator being right or wrong about an issue (of course she is wrong), as I have repeated over and over and over; it's her take on reality that is flawed. We see the world through flawed lenses; her lenses (not Lyngstad's, the narrator's). The astute listener is expected to reinterpret reality based on her (the narrator's) words.

It's the same with "Political Science". Its narrator has bad ideias (not unreliable yet) because he has a skewed perspective (unreliable!). With "Sail Away" things are a little different, because the narrator is deliberately trying to fool the imagined listener; it's an example of a different kind of unreliable narration.

This is becoming exasperating. Listen, just leave "Money, Money, Money" there. At the risk of sounding patronizing (and being called black by the kettle), I'm not going to think any less of you if you do. No one is. Just leave it there.


-- 19:42, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

And by the way, "If I Were a Rich Man" is sung by a character in a play, not by a narrator, so it doesn't even belong in this discussion. I was thinking about adding Jean Cocteau's The Human Voice to the list and did not do so for the same reason; the woman in the play is a character, not a narrator, even though she is the only character and her words are all we know of the play's reality.

Marquis de Barrabas

-- 20:10, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

I offered logic. I offered reason. I offered compromise. You have rejected all of these. You have failed to isolate a single line of text which reveals the narrator as someone "not trustable" (to use your words). Anyway, I will wait for someone else to come in and offer their view or to point to a reliable source. If no one does, then I will again delete the ABBA and Bragg songs from the list, it being one person's biased opinion, backed up by no third party. WP:NPOV, WP:VER, and WP:RS are criteria for what can be put in Wikipedia, so it is not hypocritical of me to insist that my view of what should be left out carries more weight than yours over what should be put in. It is explicit Wikipedia policy:
"Any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged needs a source, and the responsibility for finding a source lies with the person who adds or restores the material. Unsourced or poorly sourced edits may be challenged and removed at any time. Sometimes it is better to have no information at all than to have information without a source." (from WP:RS, emphasis added)
If you'd insisted that "Stan" were a poor example, I'd have to find a reliable source to support me, and, if I didn't, your opinion would carry more weight. (If you're tempted to violate WP:POINT by doing so, I'd point out [5] to support "Stan" and [6] to support other Eminem songs.) Please read Wikipedia:Five pillars and other Wikipedia policies to familiarize yourself with the rules of the game. Yes, one of the rules is "If the rules prevent you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore them." But that has to be balanced against the rest of the rules, which you seem not to be familiar with.
A while back, I argued against the following: "These kinds of lists just invite people to keep adding more and more examples and don't serve to help actual understanding of the topic. The list for this article was especially bad since it was overlong, poorly organized (why on earth were the films alphabetized using the director's first name?), and many of the examples did not actually involve unreliable narrators at all. The list was only confusing things." However, Marquisdebarrabas is helping to convince me that the problems with the list are more severe than I thought. Everyone will want to put their favorite example on the list, without regards to how illustrative it is to other people or what "lesser people" might think. That's a problem. If others cause similar problems, we should scrap the list, the rebuild it with strict adherence to WP:RS. Calbaer 20:51, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

You offered nothing but stubbornness in ignoring the several tell-tale signs of an unreliable narrator in "Money, Money, Money" which I presented here and am not about to present again. Read my previous posts.

As to the the Wikipedia policies, the fact is that using this

"Any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged needs a source, and the responsibility for finding a source lies with the person who adds or restores the material. Unsourced or poorly sourced edits may be challenged and removed at any time. Sometimes it is better to have no information at all than to have information without a source." (from WP:RS, emphasis added)

you can pretty much eliminate any of the titles from the list which you don't agree on based on the fact that there is not an authoritative source linking said song, movie or film to this narrative device.

Or, I might turn this on you and start deleting every song, book or film whose presence in the list is not backed by an authoritative source. But of course I won't do that, even if I am less than convinced about the pertinence of many of the examples. Why? Because I am actually capable of conceiving that, even if I don't see how this or that movie belongs in the list, maybe the person who added it to the list was more perceptive than I am.

And as far as this whole debate is concerned, this is how you should be looking at things.

Marquis de Barrabas

-- 21:31, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Just read the Wikipedia policies, okay? You clearly haven't; the above illustrates your ignorance of WP:POINT. And you think you are above WP:RS and WP:NPOV. You aren't. Calbaer 21:56, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Meh, the list is not supposed to be exhaustive, but is supposed to illustrative. This suggests that borderline or controversial sources should be deleted. Also, it is the responsibility of the editor who wants content included in an article to provide sources for it per WP:RS. JChap2007 22:23, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Well, then. [7]

On a previous post Calbaer commented

What about the narrator of "Money, Money, Money" is unreliable? The song is a fantasy about the singer marrying a wealthy man, a fantasy shared by many a reliable woman (and, if we can reverse genders, man).

I said

This song was written by two men, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus [[8]] who most certainly did not believe that money leads to happiness

Now here's what Ulvaeus had to say

This song was meant ironical. There was more talking about the millions we made than about our music. We were called a company instead of a pop group With 'Money, Money, Money' we wanted to hit back. If people think we are only in it for the money, well let's write about it.

In other words, Ulvaeus and Andersson wrote a song that goes against what they believe in, and took it one step further: they wrote it as if they were the one-dimensional characters (in this case, a gold digger) that people accused them of being. Just like Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as if he were a boy, or Knopfler wrote Money for Nothing as if he were a boor, or Newman wrote Sail Away as if he were a slave procurer.

All good examples of unreliable narration in song and writing.

--Marquisdebarrabas 22:33, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

You mean Huckleberry Finn. But anyway, there are two problems with including the song. First, I'm not sure how much narrative (which is generally considered the telling of a story) there is in that song. Second, there's a difference between irony and unreliable narration. JChap2007 23:19, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Precisely what I was going to say. And that's a problem with songs in general. I actually don't like most of the examples, even one or two I added. "Stan" is very illustrative: It's told from the point of view of an obsessed fan who grows increasingly erratic while thinking that Slim Shady is ignoring him. Slim's narrative at the end puts the events in perspective (although it should become clear before that point that the narrator is unreliable). "Sympathy for the Devil" is less so: The Devil is blaming mankind and politely asking for sympathy, but in the end reveals that, if upset, he could always lay your soul to waste. And both songs have a clear narrative.
Anyway, it seems to me that lists might not be so great after all. If we do have them, they should have only films and novels. And we should work on properly sourcing them (which is another challenge for songs). Calbaer 23:33, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

I'm not sure how much narrative (which is generally considered the telling of a story) there is in that song.

In that case Every Breath You Take, Money For Nothing, Short People and Political Science (to name but a few) would have to go too, since they don't weave much of a narrative.

Second, there's a difference between irony and unreliable narration.

Of course there is. The song is ironical, the narration is not; it's dead serious (as in Political Science), and... also unreliable, because the narrator, the gold digger, is biased.

--Marquisdebarrabas 23:38, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Time's Arrow

Any reason this was taken out? It seems like the perfect example of unreliable narration. JChap2007 01:14, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

I wanted the examples to either be "classic" or "recent" so that the list didn't get too long. If every "perfect example" were added, the list would get unwieldy; see "The List = Fail" above. The longer the list gets — especially when obscure or bad examples are added — the more likely those opposed to the list will just delete it. I suppose Time's Arrow — which seems to be neither bad nor obscure as an example, though it's no Huck Finn — can be readded for the benefit of those who read fiction in the early 90s but have since (for some reason) stopped. I just worry about the list getting too long. Calbaer 01:33, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. I added it and Tristram Shandy and removed Stephen King and Bret Easton Ellis, if you're worried about the list getting too long. Actually, Time's Arrow could probably go if you wanted to add either of those two back, but I think it's a good example because the narrator is consistently (perhaps reliably) unreliable. However, Tristram Shandy needs to be there. It is sometimes mentioned (by people who haven't read their Chaucer) as the earliest example of the technique in English (and yeah, I haven't been reading much modern fiction lately, if you must know). JChap2007 01:45, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Examples of unreliable narrators - where did they go?

Apparently someone decided that, in order to save face, the "Songs with unreliable narration" sub-section had to go (not the other sub-sections, mind you).

Ironically, songs with unreliable narration are not important enough to be featured in the list of examples yet they deserve an eight line paragraph (complete with examples) in the main body of text.

This is Stalinism at its best: when something or someone becomes too bothersome or inconvenient, silence it.

I expect conscientious contributors to revolt against this despicable move.

--Marquisdebarrabas 00:13, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I can only assume you meant the comparison of a dispute over an ABBA song to Stalinism as humorous overstatement (which is also different than irony and unreliable narration, by the way). Of course, the logical next step is to post on User talk:Jimbo Wales.... JChap2007 00:21, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
That "someone" was me; unlike someone else, I always contribute under my own username, so that much should be obvious. Nothing was silenced. Instead an unattributed, unexplained list was replaced by a fully attributed, fully explained section. I hope the other sections will be similarly made to conform with WP:RS and WP:NOR. The revision history and talk page have remained, so this is not revisionism, it's evolution, baby. Calbaer 00:28, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

It's a shame the list only became "unattributed" and "unexplained" towards the end of our little discussion, when I produced the authoritative source you were clamoring for.

I understand the arguments against a list, but it was there for a valid reason: Having a place to house examples, both to help readers and to relax any requirements in "policing" the prior text of the article. It's a lot easier scanning a list of examples than reading through paragraphs of text, both for those who want examples and for those who want to make sure added examples are good. If the list should be shortened or reorganized, that's one thing, but, as the original poster said, removing it isn't much of a solution.

Ok! Also,

I always contribute under my own username

I always contribute under my own username and/or IP. Never pretended to be someone else, because I never needed to. Do the Evolution, indeed, comrade.

--Marquisdebarrabas 00:37, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

If your example was so convincing, why are you the only one who believes it supports your assertion? And you started contributing and have continued to contribute as not always under your username. Unlike many of your other actions, there's nothing against Wikipedia rules about that, but to pretend I made a claim other than that which I made is rather untruthful. You refuse to follow Wikipedia rules and are stubbornly ignorant of the definitions of such terms as "Stalinism" (which you think is identical to "revisionism") and "unreliable narration" (which you've repeatedly argued as being identical to "irony," in spite of repeated protests to the contrary). If you're trying to illustrate "unreliable narrator" through your own actions, it's certainly a better illustration than any explanation you've attempted, but, once again, I'd suggest you read WP:POINT. Calbaer 00:54, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
I've reverted the Marquis's addition of Money, Money, Money. He seems to be misunderstanding that reading that ABBA says the song is ironic and drawing a conclusion that it the song has an unreliable narrator based on it is not the done thing here. The source cited does not describe the song's narrator as unreliable. Rather than edit warring over this one issue, why not find reliable sources that describe a song's (or preferrably a novel's) narrator as unreliable and write about that. Also, this essay may be of interest to you. JChap2007 01:25, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
BTW, from the source In any event, the storytelling, musical-like layers of 'Money, Money, Money' made it Benny's favourite track on the album. So, apparently, there is support for the idea that the song is regarded as telling a story. There's not yet support for the idea that the song has been considered notable as an example of an unreliable narrator. JChap2007 01:34, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Yeah — when I said you made my point exactly, I didn't quite mean that one. It's easier to question reliability than whether or not the singer can be considered a narrator. Oh, and, given the accusations of my being a Communist, perhaps burning the Reichstag is a better point of reference than climbing it. Calbaer 01:45, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

He seems to be misunderstanding that reading that ABBA says the song is ironic and drawing a conclusion that it the song has an unreliable narrator based on it

(This coming from someone who refused to admit the song was ironic until I posted the link.)

I did not state the song was ironic ergo it had an unreliable narrator. The song has an unreliable narrator (the gold digger), period. The use of an unreliable narrator adds to the irony of the song, period. It's the same with Political Science, another ironic song with an unreliable narrator.

The source cited does not describe the song's narrator as unreliable.

The majority of the works mentioned in the article as having an unreliable narrator do not have any sources that confirm their pertinence to this article, much less unambiguous ones. Shall I remove them as well? Or will busy bee take care of it?

Tell you what, I am going to insert the "Money, Money, Money" bit again. If you delete it, I will do what you've been doing so far; I am going to remove from the main body of the article any examples of unreliable narrators which are not backed up by at least one authoritative, unambiguous source. So if you plan on continuing on your little crusade, start digging up those references.

Have fun.


And you started contributing and have continued to contribute as not always under your username.

I never claimed I always contribute under my username. Not once.

This is what I said:

I always contribute under my own username and/or IP.

Except in my very first post. You really need to work on those reading skills.

-- 03:11, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

When did I not say I did not know the song was ironic? I was to trying to explain the difference between irony and unreliable narration, as you apparently did not know the difference. Thanks for announcing you're planning on destroying the article to make a WP:POINT, by the way. Nothing is lost as its in the history and you'll just end up blocked if you follow through on your threat. JChap2007 03:40, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Never mind WP:POINT: The user has violated so many other Wikipedia policies, rules, and guidelines — WP:3RR, WP:VAN, WP:NOR, WP:RS, WP:NCR, WP:Dick — that I'm not quite sure where to start. If you don't like the rules of Wikipedia, please go away. Otherwise, you may be forced away. While I'm sorely tempted to respond to your threats with appropriate action, I'm hopeful that soon you'll either tire of Wikipedia or get kicked off by someone else. Given your current attitude, I'd bet on the latter. Calbaer 03:42, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

If, indeed, I deleted all examples with no references to back them up, I would be doing no more than what you have been doing so far in the "songs" sub-section (first in the list, then in the main text paragraph).

And as to your shrill threats, let me assure you that I would heartily appreciate some real mediation on this issue.

Marquis de Barrabas

-- 04:04, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

To you, saying we're going to do nothing about your violations — but that eventually someone else likely will — is a "shrill threat." That's a rather novel interpretation.
As I stated, I did not delete the list to spite you. I deleted it because you were causing a lot of trouble, thus illustrating that it was foolish for me to have introduced it to begin with. I sourced my examples, and yet you still theaten to delete them because I want you to do the same with an example that only you believe is useful.
I started out civilly. I tried compromise. I then pointed out a few of the rules you were violating (WP:SIG, WP:NOR, etc.). Now I'm saying to you in the most direct terms possible: Kindly obey Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines or kindly go away. Calbaer 05:56, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

In one of your previous comments, you said this:

While I'm sorely tempted to respond to your threats with appropriate action, I'm hopeful that soon you'll either tire of Wikipedia or get kicked off by someone else. Given your current attitude, I'd bet on the latter.

And this

Calling for bans or blocks

Is what Wikipedia has to say about incivility. Check it out Wikipedia:Civility. In fact, it lists calling for bans or blocks as a serious example of incivility.

You're walking a very thin line here...

Marquis de Barrabas

-- 17:15, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I'm not calling for anyone to ban you. I'm simply pointing out that you're engaging in bannable behavior. Part of civility is pointing out rules to newcomers so that they don't do something they wouldn't otherwise do.
Anyway, I noticed you tried to "report" this situation, but then decided not to. Please do. If you think you're right and we're wrong, that the experienced folks are breaking all the rules while you're following them, then you have nothing to fear. Calbaer 17:37, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I decided to report the situation based on the fact that you conveniently deleted part of the list; then I realized that you had added some of the deleted examples to the main text, which gave you an alibi, if you will.

If you think you're right (...) then you have nothing to fear.

The same goes for you, comrade. Let's get as many editors as we can in here.

Marquis de Barrabas

-- 19:06, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

“Money, Money, Money”’s unreliable narrator (cont.)

For those who just joined the discussion, here’s why “Money, Money, Money”’s narrator is unreliable in 4 easy steps.

1) Firstly, one needs to understand very clearly that the narrator and Anni-Frid Lyngstad are not the same person. The narrator is not a creation of Lyngstad, but of the two men who wrote the song, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson.

Irrelevant. By that argument, 99% of narrators would be unreliable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ellissound (talkcontribs)

I guess this is what I get for falling for a straw-man argument. Anyway, on to point two... (MdB) -- 19:11, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

2) One must also understand that the writers (Ulvaeus and Andersson) are markedly anti-materialistic (as Randy Newman is an anti-imperialist, for instance); many of the songs they wrote for ABBA portray money-obsession in an unfavorable manner, most notably So Long (song) (link removed per WP:LINKVIO)

3) One must understand that the narrator of “Money, Money, Money” is not a mere narrator, but a “would-be” character.[9]

you could say that it's constructed like a stage number. I imagine someone else doning it, not necessarily us: someone standing on a platform singing these lyrics

The same article states that the working title of the song was “Gypsy King”. In the booklet accompanying ABBA The Definitive Collection, it is stated, and I quote: “The cabaret-tinged ‘Money, Money, Money’ was recorded in May, at one time sporting the working title ‘Gypsy Girl’. Released as a single in November 1976, the song showcased a dramatic Frida lead vocal (...)”. The gypsy girl eventually became the gold-digging narrator of the song.

4) One must understand, finally, that in order to criticize materialism (see 2.), the authors created a reprehensible narrator/character (see 3.) with a biased perspective. The narrator manifests her bias when she portrays “the rich man’s life” in terms which the authors well know (as we should know) are unrealistic “(I wouldn’t have to work at all/ I’d fool around and have a ball (…)Always sunny/ In the rich man’s world”) [10] This same bias is also manifested when the narrator implies that winning a fortune would automatically solve all her problems (“So I must leave (…) And win a fortune in a game, my life will never be the same”) [11]

This song is ironic, obviously; the narrator, however, is “dead serious”. She believes piously in what she is saying, and expects us to believe her too (nevertheless, and unlike Sail Away’s narrator, she is not a liar). To put it very plainly, the ‘gypsy girl’ drank the capitalist Kool-Aid. If she were being ironic, then we would be able to trust her; that would mean that the song didn’t have an unreliable narrator. Because this is not the case, because

the credibility of the narrator is seriously compromised

due to a

a powerful bias

we must recognize the fact that this song’s narrator, the ‘gypsy girl’, is indeed an unreliable narrator.

Marquis de Barrabas

-- 19:28, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

...which only you with your original research believe. Your analysis, right or wrong, is fine for a term paper, but it has no place on Wikipedia, which actually has rules you must obey to remain a contributor. Calbaer 23:11, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
P.S. Welcome ABBA fans! Calbaer 02:10, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

I guess this is your roundabout way of admitting that I might just be right... No original research - a pertinent link, for a change.

Marquis de Barrabas

PS: In the interest of coherence, you should try to find references that confirm beyond any doubt the relevance of each and every example mentioned in the article, as you have consistently done with the examples in the songs sub-section.

-- 18:44, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Of course I still think you're wrong; I just think you'll never change your mind, no matter how many people tell you you're wrong and no matter how logical the argument. I know how to recognize that from prior experience. As for your suggestion of relevant reliable sources, I address this in the section below. Calbaer 18:58, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

This song contains no facts. It contains opinions and generalizations. Even if the opinions are wrong, the narrator is not unreliable. If the song said "I went to the store on Saturday" or something, and the narrator did not go to the store on Sunday, then she would be unreliable. --Ellissound 03:07, 3 August 2007 (UTC)

Why the heck did it take so long for someone to make this simple point? An unreliable narrator is misrepresenting what has happened, either deliberately or because they are mistaken/deluded/misinformed. More to the point, the narrator needs to be NARRATING, meaning telling a story (a narrative). Money Money Money, for all its delicious irony, is not misrepresenting the facts of a story.Pearce.duncan 01:20, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

The List = Fail revisited

I argued for the lists, but I'm now convinced that the lists must be improved. New (and some old) entries should be reliably sourced. The lists shouldn't include short stories, short poems, songs, video games or other material where the unreliable narrator technique is less common, since these can be added (and sourced) in the main text. Requiring a source for new entries will be a significant hurdle that will help keep the lists manageable. WP:RS doesn't require every sentence of every article in Wikipedia to be sourced, but disputed items must be, and, considering how the lists are already of sufficient size, every additional entries should be considered a potential dispute.

We also need to emphasize that "I like it" isn't a good reason for putting in another example, just as it isn't a good reason to keep an article. I love the band eels, but if I pick "Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor" or "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" or "Souljacker part I" or "I'm Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart" as examples of unreliable narration, they would hurt rather than help, because they're unknown to most people. Also, while "Shoehorn With Teeth" may be an ideal illustration of the unreliable narrator due to its compact form [12], again, it's not as useful as, say, "Stan," which a reader is more likely to have heard of. So discouraging the addition of and encouraging the deletion of less popular works will also help. Calbaer 02:17, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Comment via RFC: agreed with Calbaer. I think it would clear up disagreement to invoke WP:RS and WP:NOR, requiring that listed entries be based on externally cited as examples of unreliable narrator. I also have my doubts about some of the existing entries. Alex of A Clockwork Orange is a thug and a rapist, but is perfectly reliable in his reportage of his exploits; he'd be unreliable if, for instance, he said his victims enjoyed it. Tearlach 16:03, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. I'd suspected that for Orange, but it'd been years since I'd seen it, so I didn't want to be too bold. For the sake of giving well-known examples to readers, we'll "grandfather" current entries in, but, as per WP:RS, anyone who doesn't like a given entry can delete it or demand a source. Calbaer 16:56, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

I added back American Psycho, which seems to have popped in and out of the list several times before. I believe it should be included because it is a well-known work, and famous for its unreliable narrator. Google for ' "american psycho" unreliable narrator' or ' "patrick bateman" unreliable narrator' and you will get back plenty of references. I cited one of the more respectable. A few sources argue that the book is not an example of an unreliable narrator (notably [13], which provides arguably a better definition and explanation of the term than the present article), but seem to base this on a naive reading that assumes Bateman really did commit the horrible acts he describes. I'm personally not fond of the opposite view, that he hallucinated all the murders, because I think the novel is so committed to his point of view that it's impossible to say anything about the "reality" of any of it. American Psycho's world is whatever goes on inside the head of Patrick Bateman, not some posited objective 'verse that he exists within. Nevertheless, by giving readers reason to doubt that his subjective narration provides a substantially accurate description of such an objective reality, he definitely does qualify as an unreliable narrator.

I don't want to pad the list with minor or marginal examples, but there are a few others that come to mind and might be worth adding. James Lasdun's The Horned Man is told from the POV of a mentally disturbed narrator, much like Pale Fire or American Psycho. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon is narrated by a kid with Asperger syndrome, and his narration is unreliable in a similar way to how the mentally disabled narrators of The Sound and the Fury or Flowers for Algernon are. However, Lasdun disdains the term,[14] and Haddon's book might more properly be said to use dramatic irony.

Spoilers for Jorge Luis Borges's "The Form of the Sword", Iain M. Banks's Use of Weapons, and the film Frailty. Finally, what about the technique used in these works, among others, where the narrator or POV character is revealed to be a different character in the story than who he initially pretended to be? Or is that a different type of narrator trickery? --Snarkibartfast 16:30, 21 April 2007 (UTC)

If you want to add examples, you should add references with the examples, as you did in your last edit. I've taken to deleting all newly added examples without reliable sources (although I'm pretty lenient on what's reliable, so as not to be accused of getting rid of sourced examples). I've never seen American Psycho added with a source prior to the most recent add; that doesn't mean sources don't exist, but it should fall on the adder to find the source, not the reader. Since there are lots of examples and since the commented text explicitly asks for sources, it's cleaner and easier to revert than to sprinkle {fact}s all over the article, especially since we want to keep the lists short and useful.
One thing we could use is a better (and sourced) definition of "unreliable narrator" for visual media. Perhaps the article you link (which I don't have free access to) would be a good guide for this. I think it should only refer to stories that are shown with events that didn't happen but might be realistic. For example, I took out the Trainspotting (the film), because, although there's an unreliable narration and an unrealistic scene, "unreliable narration" isn't a major part of the film. For example, the main character/narrator keeps saying he needs "One last hit," but only a fool would believe that the "last hit" would really be a last. Other events he describes seem realistic. An acquaintance tells a story at a bar that's immediately followed by a scene of what actually happened, which was different, but there's nothing indicating that the acquaintance was telling the truth to begin with. Finally, the infamous "diving into the toilet" scene is clearly unrealistic and thus hyperbole, not unreliable narration.
Contrast this with, say, Rashomon or episodes of the show House, where the viewer is shown scenes and left to wonder what's real and what's not. To me, that's what unreliable narration in film and television is. Calbaer 17:37, 21 April 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, I understand the policy, and given the history of edits to the article I even agree with it. It's unfortunate that some of the examples that you've reverted are actual cases of unreliable narrators, such as Veronica Mars (the episode "A Trip to the Dentist", which is patterned after Rashomon) and À la folie... pas du tout, but if they were important examples I guess someone would add them back.
Which article I linked don't you have free access to? [15]? I don't think I linked to anything that discusses unreliable narrators in film, but the "Fight Clubs, American Psychos and Mementos" article [16] (which I don't have access to either) seems like it might be it. Was that the one you were thinking of? A synopsis of the academic view of unreliable narrators in general, beyond just Booth, would also be nice. --Snarkibartfast 01:21, 22 April 2007 (UTC)
The informaword link. If you don't know what's in the article, though, it isn't a reliable source. I know many people (academics, even, and famous ones at that) include references without bothering to check what's in the corresponding article, but that leads to a lot of mistaken conclusions. Since the article is about how the term "unreliable narrator" is overused, it could be saying that some or all of the examples are poor examples of unreliable narration. (Then again, I suppose mentioning them lends credence to the idea that someone thinks they are examples of unreliable narration.) Anyway, if anyone has access, they might want to check this. Calbaer 23:23, 23 April 2007 (UTC)
Uh, to clarify, I didn't add that reference. I assume whoever did so was able to access the full article. --Snarkibartfast 04:33, 24 April 2007 (UTC)


One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (novel). Narrator is schizophrenic, many of the things he describes are obvious hallucinations. This was the first novel I thought of when I read through this article, might be worth including. --Xyzzyplugh 11:40, 29 April 2007 (UTC)

Find a reliable source to that effect, and include it if you think it's a good example. I'm not sure how popular the novel is (as opposed to the movie), so keep that in mind, too. Calbaer 16:55, 2 May 2007 (UTC)
I thought this was read in nearly every english class in the country? It was in all of the schools when I was in high school (~1996). That's one thing I hate about wikipedia, everything requires a source- how can there be a source for popularity/commonness.
I wasn't requesting a source for popularity, but rather a reliable source for its being an example of unreliable narration (preferably a source that indicates that it's a good example of unreliable narration). My high school years were also in the 90s, but, in 9 semesters of English class, I never read it at my high school, just so you know. Calbaer 20:30, 11 June 2007 (UTC)
Nabokov's Lolita: Humbert's views are not exactly sane, though he relates them in a perfectly rational manner. Iain Pears' An Instace at the Fingerpost: A series of narrators, of which each has a personal agenda hidden from the reader. Most (if not all) novels by Jim Thompson. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 16:54, 2 May 2007 (UTC).

Roger Ackroyd

Agahta Christie's Roger Ackroyd is indeed an example of a very unreliable narrator. But the technique used by Christie in this story was not invented by her. It was used (some would say more elegantly) in the mystery novel Jernvognen (The Iron Carriage) by Stein Riverton (nome de plume for Norwegian author and journalist Sven Elvestad) in 1909. A similar effect (though certainly not that elegant) was used by Maurice Leblanc in his first Arsène Lupin-story in 1905. However, they all probably got the idea from a short story by Chekov.

Anyway I would say the mystery/crime fiction genre is very often based on the principle of unreliable narrators. Christie's Hastings, as well as Doyle's Watson are unreliable, as they systematically misunderstand the finds and actions of their detective friends. Clever crime writers might even let an impersonal narrator be unreliable, like in The Maltese Falcon, where facts as well as other characters are seen through the view of Sam Spade, while Spade's motives are hidden from the reader (a narrative technique superior to most "serious" 20th century novelists).

It's not enough for something to be an example of unreliable narration. There are millions of such examples. To be added to the already-long list on this page, it should be a good, sourced example. If the unreliability is debatable or a minor aspect not important to the story, it's not a good example. (For example, from what I recall, Watson mostly didn't fully understand why Holmes did what he did, but he didn't misreport what he did, so his lack of full information is an example of point of view, not unreliable narration. If there are instances of unreliable narration, they are minor and a matter of style, not a vital aspect of the Sherlock canon. So this is a bad example.) If the story has been read by a very small percentage of readers, it's not a good example. If the book is a lesser-known work by an already-included writer, it's not very useful, either. And if you don't include a reliable source indicating that the book or film is an example of unreliable narration, then it will be reverted, as per WP:RS. Although there are examples without sources in the article, these have been "grandfathered" in, and, from this point on, the goal is to make the article more sourced (improved), not less (degraded). Calbaer 16:55, 2 May 2007 (UTC)


I don't think it is strictly accurate to say that any movie has an "unreliable narrator." Strictly speaking, movies don't have narrators, except for voice-over narration, a scantly used device that is never really what creates perspective in a film. It would be more accurate to say that these movies employ an unreliable point of view. marbeh raglaim 23:10, 13 May 2007 (UTC)

You're probably right. Of course, several of the most notably unreliable films actually do use a narrator, such as The Usual Suspects and Fight Club. Do you have any documentation for "unreliable point of view" as an established term? Otherwise it would probably fall foul of WP:NOR, unfortunately. Snarkibartfast 22:14, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
This academic paper (or at least the abstract) argues that unreliable narrators exist in film, but that the term shouldn't be used too liberally. But I think it's wrong to say that no movie has an unreliable narrator. There are voice-over narrators that are unreliable and there are character narrators (usually narrating flashbacks) that are unreliable. Sometimes they'll just tell a story, but more often their story will be accompanied by the visual version of events. If you want to argue that showing the unreliable narrator's story isn't "unreliable narration," I would say that such an argument misses the point. If unreliable narration is employed, then the use of "unreliable point of view," as you call it, usually follows from the unreliable narration, not vice versa. True, it makes the unreliable narration more powerful, but it certainly doesn't negate it or make it irrelevant. Perhaps this could be commented on in the article, but I don't think the distinction is really important enough to bother with. My point, ultimately, is that some movies do have narrators, and some of those narrators are unreliable. Calbaer 23:36, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

When you have a first-person narrator in a novel or short story, all your direct knowledge of what happens in the story comes through that narrator. Without the narrator, you wouldn't know anything. Thus, unreliable narration in literature (and arguably all first-person narrators are "unreliable" to one degree or another) has a profound effect on the reader's perception of what goes on in the story.

In movies, it's different. Voice-over narration is only supplemental; our knowledge of what happens in the story comes almost entirely through what we see happening on screen. If the voice-over narration isn't reliable, the effect on our perceptions of the story is usually very minimal. The only way to fool the audience in a comparable way to the unreliable narrator of literature is by showing things not as they actually are but as they appear to one character. Movies like Fight Club and American Psycho do feature voice-over narration, but that's not primarily where the psychological trickery arises; rather, these movies show the events through the distorted perceptions of a particular character.

Thus, when discussing unreliable narrators in movies, we have two choices. we could limit our discussion to movies where the voice-over narrator does indeed give misleading information. If we do, then unreliable narrators are a fairly rare, insignificant device in the movies.

On the other hand, we could observe that unreliable viewpoints are essentially the cinematic equivalent of unreliable narrators in literature. I don't know if this point has been made in academic sources, but it seems obvious to me. In literature, first-person narrators are what generate the point of view in stories that employ them. Thus, movies like American Psycho are very much in the tradition of such stories, whether or not the voice-over narration is misleading.

I hope I've made myself clear. marbeh raglaim 13:55, 16 May 2007 (UTC)


Should the new movie 300 be added to the list? It features a lot of fearsome looking mutants and giant elephants. The end of the movie shows the only surviving member of the 300 Spartans telling the story to a crowd of soldiers. Should this be interpreted as him being an unreliable narrator or should we accept that the movie takes place in a world where fantastic creatures exist? 09:16, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

I suppose that's one interpretation, but a better one would be to say that it's a work of fiction based on a comic book, and should be viewed as such. Also, I'm not sure that either the deformed humans nor the rhinoceros are that far out of the realm of reality. In any event, although one could argue it's an example, it's not a good example, so it should be left off the list. Calbaer 02:29, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
I would also argue that it should be left off the list. My interpretation is that the film is intentionally historically inaccurate for cinematic effect, not because the putative narrator is embellishing the story. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:55, 9 June 2008 (UTC)
I also interpreted "300" as an example of an Unreliable Narrator, in the face of critics scoffing at the animals and giants. It reminded me of "Baron Munchausen", which told a tale of historic events (the siege of Vienna) but exaggerated more and more - to the point where the story being told was complete fantasy. I think it's a decent example, and certainly far more relevant than "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" which few have ever seen even if they know the name.Pete71 (talk) 22:12, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

High Tension?

Please comment on the French horror film High Tension regarding inclusion in this article. I think it qualifies, but I thought the same about Life of Pi and Usual Suspects and those got reverted.

KConWiki 01:58, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

As stated several places on this talk page, as well as in the comments in the main page, additions should be reliably sourced before added to a list that would otherwise grow long, unwieldy, and irrelevant. Most people who add items to the list don't even take the time to read even the relevant parts of the article, and, honestly, someone who doesn't take the time to read the article and to find a source will be likely to degrade the article. Speaking of which, Usual Suspects leads off the "film" section of the article, so your implication that it's not in the article is false. Someone who wants to put in on the list should add a source and reference both the film section and list section. Also, Life of Pi is probably not the best example, either. It's a recent book, yes, but I don't think it's in, say, the top 10 English-language books of the past decade in terms of popularity or critical acclaim, in spite of its winning the Man Booker Prize. Calbaer 14:56, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
So what does everyone think about using the * category on the individual pages that we'd like to see listed as Unreliable Narration. That would keep the portion of this particular article from getting clogged up.

KConWiki 01:34, 16 June 2007 (UTC)

The Wall and The Bell Jar

I'm on record above as being opposed to the list of examples altogether, but it is at least better now than it used to be. Still, I didn't think The Wall or The Bell Jar were particularly good examples of the unreliable narrator device, so I've removed them. (Neither had references.) I can see the case for The Wall having an unreliable narrator, as the film does include several scenes that take place only in the protagonist's mind, but the use of animation for these sequences makes it clear to the viewer that they aren't "real". I'd consider these scenes more akin to dream sequences than a true case of unreliable narration. It's been several years since I read The Bell Jar, but I don't recall the narrator being unreliable. She was mentally ill, but not delusional. I think we want to avoid implying that "unreliable narrator" is synonymous with "crazy protagonist". CKarnstein 02:44, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

In non-fiction

Robert Polito, discussing Ray Davies "unauthorized autobiography" X-Ray describes it as an example of "experimental non-fiction" with an unreliable narrator. He mentions several other examples of "experimental non-fiction"—"Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, Stendahl's The lire of Henry Brulard, Ondaatje's Coming through Slaughter, Sinclair's Lights Out for the Territory, and Sebald's The Emigrants"—but does not specifically indicate which use the device of an unreliable narrator.

Citation: Robert Polito, "Bits of Me Scattered Everywhere: Ray Davies and the Kinks", p. 119–144 in Eric Weisbard, ed., This is Pop, Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01321-2 (cloth), ISBN 0-674-01344-1 (paper).

There should probably be some mention of non-fiction with an unreliable narrator. We can clearly cite Polito for Davies as an example; I've never read any of these other works (odd, because I've read all of these authors, just not these works), so someone else would have to sort out whether they have unreliable narrators and could be used as further examples. - Jmabel | Talk 06:31, 15 August 2007 (UTC)


I don't see how the obsessed fan in Eminem's "Stan" is an unreliable narrator. A mess, yes, but he seems "reliable". Is there a citation for calling him an unreliable narrator? If not, I think that should be dropped as an example. - Jmabel | Talk 06:34, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

-Hey Jmabel, came into this discussion to say just this. As a narrator in Eminem's song, "Stan" is not remotely unreliable. He's obsessed with Eminem and clearly lacks self-esteem, but everything he says, i.e. his girlfriend being pregnant and him being essentially in love with Slim Shady, is completely reliable and the reality of this is confirmed by Eminem hearing about Stan driving his car off of a bridge and addressing his letters (in the last verse). Losing credibility is not the same thing as losing face or losing sanity. I'd remove this right away if I didn't see it brought up before in discussion, so I'll leave my comment here for a little while to see if anyone objects or interpreted the song in a much different way, though I don't see how that's possible... it certainly isn't a notable example either way, unless I'm completely misunderstanding the concept of unreliable narrator.

If the implication by this song being included in the Wiki is that we are not meant to believe Stan is going to hurt himself and is just crying out for attention, but later find out that he did, that is not unreliable narration either. It is the reader's perception, but everything Stan says is for real. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:02, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

Footnote 19

This article is poorly suited to justifying anything on the lists, much less five entries. I would suggest finding better sources. 15:37, 27 August 2007 (UTC)

The Killing

Should this be included as an example as I seem to remember that Kubrick hated the idea of a narrator, so the narration is not always accurate.

-- 17:41, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Satire and unreliable narration can and do coexist

The literary device of the unreliable narrator should not be confused with other devices such as euphemism, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, pathetic fallacy, personification, sarcasm, or satire, in which the narrator is credible, but the narrator's words cannot be taken literally.

Whoever wrote this was clearly too busy trying to prove someone wrong to attend to the meaning of satire or unreliable narration.

In reality, satire and unreliable narration can and do coexist, as in the case of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, which is a satirical work [17], a satire [18] ( Review), and has an unreliable – and therefore, by definition, less-than-credible – narrator [19].

A certain ABBA song also comes to mind. 03:11, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

If you would like to rephrase, go ahead. I'm not sure why you would need a citation to clarify language. Perhaps the following would be clearer:
The literary device of the unreliable narrator should not be confused with other devices such as euphemism, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, pathetic fallacy, personification, sarcasm, or satire. As works featuring such devices illustrate, there are many instances without unreliable narration in which a narrator's words cannot be taken literally.
Hopefully, that would make it more clear that these devices are not mutually exclusive with unreliable narration, but merely devices that can be confused with unreliable narration by those who do not know better.
By the way, please do not violate Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines#Others.27 comments. You can sign unsigned comments or respond to them, but please don't delete them. Calbaer 04:50, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

It's not a question of clarity. You (or whoever wrote that... I can't be bothered to find out who) wrote that, in satire, the narrator is credible. This isn't badly phrased, it is, as I've pointed out, an incorrect statement, period.

You can sign unsigned comments or respond to them, but please don't delete them.

I have no idea what you're talking about. If you have a problem with me reverting vandalism done to my comments then, by all means, call the fuzz on me. Otherwise...

-- 16:56, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

I am referring to this. I gave you a polite reminder, because it’s better to work things out civilly rather than involve “the fuzz,” under the assumption of good faith that your violation was not an intentional flouting of guidelines but was rather due to ignorance of them. On a similar note, I tried to respond in a way that would allow you to review a suitable replacement for text you found problematic, but instead of responding to my proposed changes, you continued to criticize the statement in the article! It is an issue of clarity unless you believe that all satire involves unreliable narration. Do you? (If your response is merely a third attack of the original statement, you needn’t give it. Criticizing a statement that I’m proposing a change to, rather than responding to the change, is pointless.) Calbaer 18:07, 28 September 2007 (UTC)
Incidentally, just to be clear, what you reverted wasn't vandalism, but rather a valid response. It was unsigned and it interrupted flow, but the latter is allowed under WP:TALK#Others.27 comments. It certainly wasn't addition, removal, or change of content made in a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of Wikipedia.. That's why your reversion was contrary to editing guidelines. Calbaer 23:24, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

From:, "Using Talk Pages"

You should sign and date your contributions on all talk pages by typing four tildes: ( 21:31, 1 October 2007 (UTC)), which will yield something like: Username 19:36, 10 January 2006 (UTC).

Apparently this goes for everyone except for people making "valid" remarks in the middle of my comments...

Listen, let's just stop this squabble while we still have some dignity.

I'll add a reference for American Psycho and we'll leave it at that.

-- 21:31, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

When another user fails to sign his message, you shouldn't delete it. Instead, as indicated on Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines, you should put {{unsigned}} at the end of the comments. Look, for example, at the talk page text above; Marquisdebarrabas [20] and [21] failed to sign comments. Instead of deleting them, I responded, adding {{unsigned}} [22] [23]. I did this even though these usernames had previously contributed signed comments. If a user forgets to sign a message, it does not give other users permission to censor their comments. I am not trying to squabble here; I would just appreciate it if you would acknowledge and adhere to the guidelines.
Anyway, I am assuming from your answer that you do not view satire as necessarily involving unreliable narration, so a clarification that neither are they mutually exclusive is fine by me. Calbaer 22:08, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

Dead Narrator

Does the death of the narrator make him/her unreliable? I know that it is not genrally done as it is a bad literary style. How could someone be retelling this story if they were dead? But, someone, somewhere must have written about it. Does this concept of your narrator not surviving the tale belong in a different article? --Westralian (talk) 18:32, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

I'd say it's different. In American Beauty (film), the main character is dead but a reliable narrator (as far as I can recall), for example. Calbaer (talk) 18:39, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
Often being dead makes a narrator more reliable, since they have no reason to lie or protect themselves anymore. Desperate Housewives is a good example - although the narrator doesn't tell us everything, what she does tell us is reliable, as she no longer has any reason to hide it from us. (talk) 11:32, 19 May 2008 (UTC)

Examples of "unreliable narrator

All examples in the article, starting from The Canterbury Tales, must have a reference who classified them as "unreliable narrator", since it is clearly a literaturological opinion and hence must be heard from experts only. In many cases it is thin line between a tall tale and a fantasy. `'Míkka>t 23:14, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

For example, I fail to see why the classic Baron Münchhausen is not mentioned, or am I missing something here? On the other hand, I don't recall any unreliable narrators in Pan's Labyrinth; it is just a fantasy set within real-life stage. `'Míkka>t 23:24, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Not all examples must have a reference, but they should, and I've challenged new examples which don't. Also, it's not an exhaustive list, so while your favorite work may be missing (or, if there's no reference, deleted), that doesn't mean that the article is fatally flawed. In addition, you're free to remove examples you think are wrong, as you have. Finally, you deleted most of television episodes as being "false examples." I believe all examples are valid. If you want a source for them, that's an understandable request, but that's different than the examples being "false." Calbaer (talk) 01:27, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
"Münchhausen" is not simply "my favorite". It is an archetype of a narrative liar, that's why I have mentioned him. As for TV shows, why the narrator described as "He sometimes withholds a crucial detail until the end of the story, when it throws the preceding events into a different light" is an unreliable narrator. Also, "Although he never states so to the class, it is eventually revealed that he is one of the patients." does not make a person an "unreliable narrator". In other words, a single shaggy dog story does not make a person a liar. The crucial factor is the almost 100% noncredibility of a narrator. Otherwise nearly every person in the Christian world is an "unreliable narrator". `'Míkka>t 01:46, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
It's been a while since I've read any of the Munchhausen stories, but I would hesitate to classify them as having an unreliable narrator. As you point out, this is a literary classification, and just because a story happens to be untrue (fictional), that does not necessarily make the narrator unreliable. For this concept to apply, there must be some notion within the story of the "actual" events that the narrator is not accurately reporting (whether they are subsequently revealed or must be inferred by the reader), and I don't recall anything like that in the stories I read. The whole thing is complicated by the fact that Baron Munchhausen was a real person, and that there's no one canonical version of his adventures.
Again, regarding the TV shows, "unreliable narrator" isn't really about whether the person/character telling the story is a liar. It has nothing to do with an "almost 100% noncredibility" of the storyteller, but about the way in which the story is told. Withholding a crucial detail until the end of the story is a classic type of unreliable narration: the story is initially presented one way, but the reader/viewer later learns that the actual facts (within the narrator's world) were somewhat different.
I would guess that Pan's Labyrinth is listed because the film presents the fantastical events as actually happening, but then hints that Ofelia may be imagining them. The narrator or POV would be unreliable for showing her fantasies as facts. Although the movie never resolves this ambiguity, the mere suspicion of an alternative, "real" narrative (where none of the supernatural events occur) is enough to make the narrator unreliable (suspicion -> doubt -> cannot rely -> unreliable). It's probably not a great example, though, since other interpretations don't have this issue. Snarkibartfast (talk) 08:08, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
Well put. It sounds like the TV show explanations could be improved for clarity. How I Met Your Mother uses the unreliable narrator often. In the pilot, the father is the unreliable narrator, making both the home audience and his children think he's telling the story of when he met their mother, when in fact he's telling the first part of a very long story about the circumstances that led to him meeting the mother. So it's about how he met a family friend, not the mother. Another episode has various narrators relating to one character the tale of Ted's wild night out. These narrators are unreliable, not due to their personal defects, but due to a lack of knowledge: They don't realize that another character lied and claimed his name was Ted's. In yet another show, three narrators remember a story differently (similarly to Rashomon), and, only when they hear from a fourth years later does the primary narrator realize what actually happened. However, we don't want to overload the article with examples from that particular television show just because it happens to have a lot of good examples of this phenomenon.
When House tells about three patients, he presents one as being a patient he treated until the audience catches on that, in the story about that particular patient, he's actually the patient, not the doctor. Some people procedurals, those which use interrogations to frame flashbacks, could arguably be said to use unreliable narrators, though if the audience strongly suspects that a character is lying from the outset, I'm not sure that "unreliable narrator" is quite the right term.
Anyway, I'll probably restore the television examples and, if I have time, rewrite them to make it clearer that the narrator is unreliable, not just someone with a slight bias and/or an irrelevant tall tale. Calbaer (talk) 21:09, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

User:Snarkibartfast said: " Withholding a crucial detail until the end of the story is a classic type of unreliable narration" - reference, please. `'Míkka>t 04:13, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Indeed. I've wondered this too. The narrator in "The Perfect Murder", for instance, never actually lies to his readers. He even mentions (spoilers follow here), in passing, receiving a letter that makes him realise that he will be following the trial closely; he's just not more specific than that. Is he still unreliable? —JAOTC 21:02, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

The film A Beautiful Ming should be included in this, since it is told from the viewpoint of someone that is schizophrenic —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:13, 29 November 2009 (UTC)

I was thinking the same thing, so I guess I'll add it? (talk) 22:17, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Massive removal of text

I see nothing here resembling a discussion about removing over half the article. Please discuss here before attempting to do so again. S. Dean Jameson 04:56, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

Unreliable narration in LOLITA

LOLITA should go on the list. Example: in the first chapter the imaginary editor says that "Mrs. Richard F. Schiiler" died in childbirth. Only toward the end of the novel does the reader realize (if he even remembers the line) that "Mrs. Schiller" was Lolita and the editor was describing the death of the title character. How unreliable can you get? CharlesTheBold (talk) 01:39, 31 August 2008 (UTC)

Ender's Game

Could somebody explain how 'Ender's Game' ended up in the list of Novels with an unreliable narrator? The 'brilliant child' (i.e. Ender) is not the narrator. The reader may be left in the dark, but that is not the essential requirement in calling the narrator 'unreliable'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Schewek (talkcontribs) 16:41, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

Non-notable films

Don't add non-notable films to this article. S.D.D.J.Jameson 03:33, 30 November 2008 (UTC)

The Handmaid's Tale

I see Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is named as an example. I really don't think this is an example of an unreliable narrator, plus there isn't any reference to back this claim up. I would suggest to remove this example. (talk) 13:04, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

Agreed. I didn't find Offred particularly unreliable either. A quick Google brings up a couple of references, arguing that her lack of information due to living in an oppressive society makes her unreliable, but none of them very authoritative, and others cite her as a reliable narrator. Removed. -Snarkibartfast (talk) 19:16, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

Uncited works

Don't remove good examples simply because they were not cited as such, by putting them here, WE are citing them for the first time! As for those who insist that they are Wikipedia know-it-alls, probably because they haven't been laid for a while (or at all!), I suggest you take a bath and brush your teeth more often -- a mouthwash will also help. (talk) 03:00, 15 December 2008 (UTC)free speech is in the constitution

You obviously do not understand how Wikipedia works, because listing a book, movie, tv show, etc., here is not "citing them for the first time." In fact, that does not even make sense. You have to provide an external reference, from a reputable source, that indicates the example you are giving is relevant. Furthermore, your personal attacks, as you have already been warned, are completely inappropriate. Comment on the contribution, not on the contribution. ---RepublicanJacobiteThe'FortyFive' 03:09, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Just because they are not cited (yet) doesn't make them irrelevant. It might be better if we let editors with literary experience decide on this rather than virgin know-it-all who pretends to know something about literature. And this is a talk page, so if I want to attack the contibutor who hasn't been laid in a while (or at all), I have a constitutional RIGHT to do so. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Please keep in mind that while you have a constitutional right to call someone a faggot, wikipedia has the same constitutional right to block you from editing wikipedia, without encroaching on your constitutional right to call wikipedians faggots at some other websites. If you don't believe me, please check with your lawyer. Now back to the issue in question. The "virgin know-it-alls" whoever you had in mind did not pretend to know something about literature. They pretend that they know wikipedia rules about adding information to wikipedia, the most basic of them being wikipedia:Verifiability and WP:CITE. Still further, if you want to discuss the issue in the real essence, please keep in mind that the fact that some narrators do not stick to facts, either intentionally or by poor memory does not automatically sssign the tale in question to the genre "unreliable narrator". Even if it does, this fact must meet basic crieria of wikipedia:Notability to be included into an encyclopedia, in paricular, the issue in question must be discussed in literary circles. If it was discussed, you will easily find the required references. If it was not, then it is not interesting and hence has no place in wikipedia. `'Míkka>t 03:47, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

since when do criticisms of particular know-it-all wikipedian, in a TALK page a cause for blocking? some might call that disruptive, if they are the GESTAPO, and ban everybody who does not agree with them, or use what THEY consider civil language. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:13, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Please, do everyone, including yourself, a favor, and read WP:NPA, WP:NOTFREESPEECH, and WP:NOTDEMOCRACY. Freedom of speech does not apply on Wikipedia, because it is a private website. Administrators can and will block you for disruptive editing and personal attacks, unless you amend your ways. ---RepublicanJacobiteThe'FortyFive' 14:45, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
I have waited for the recent edit frenzy to die down before adding a comment. I agree with several editors that some of the examples given are of questionable validity. Huckleberry Finn, I think, is one of the most clear-sighted narrators in literature (see Leslie Fiedler 'Love and Death in the American novel'). But I will leave others to contest that if they wish. However, I have thought it proper to restore the reference to 'An Instance of the Fingerpost', a significant and widely reviewed recent novel which revels in several unreliable narrators and admirably illustrates the characterising features surveyed in the introduction to the article. I am puzzled by the claim of Míkka>t that the reference does not classify it as "unreliable narrator" genre. I think the reference does that precisely and this will be evident to anybody who has read the novel. The verifiability and notability criteria are well satisfied. Xxanthippe (talk) 01:56, 21 December 2008 (UTC).
I will re-read the reference carefully in my spare time. May be I missed something, in this case I am sorry. `'Míkka>t 02:08, 21 December 2008 (UTC)


For a long time this article has been biths and pieces of someone's original essays not supported by solid references from literary experts. It particular the definition has a number of glaring holes. The most evident being the necessity to treat correctly myths, fairy tales, sci fi, fantasy, etc. Many of us know (or have reasons to believe) that goblins, Santa Claus, elves and Martians do not exist, but we don't classify tales about them under "unreliable narrations". Second, we don't classify, say, a character who is a babysitter who tells a goodnight tale to children an "unreliable narrator" either. And there are some other issues I see no sense to discuss: just write a text based on reliable sources, please, and done with it. There is no reason to waste time in literary quarrels between "virgin know-it-alls" and "snotty professionals": let sources speak for themselves, as wikipedia rules say. `'Míkka>t 04:09, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

The article is tagged as lacking reference since January 2008. It has been in this state even longer. It is time to start deleting in order to replace it with texts coming from "reliable sources" :-). A brief google books search shows that references are abound. `'Míkka>t 04:22, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

SemBubenny has reverted the inclusion of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos twice, claiming the reference doesn't check out. In fact, it does. When I click on the Google book link, I don't get access to p.200, but if I google for "anita loos unreliable narrator" it shows up as the second hit, and can be accessed. The relevant section reads: "Loos's continued use of her popular character's voice shows her ambivalence towards Lorelei. [...] Loos's satire conflates the "dominant" and "oppositional" readings, offering only the position of a "negotiated" reading as readers decide the extent to which they can believe the unreliable narrator."

Multiple other hits ([24] [25]) support the status of the book as a prominent example of a story told by an unreliable narrator.

I also want to point out that even if an editor cannot get access to a source, that by itself is no reason to assume the source is not valid. -- Snarkibartfast (talk) 03:29, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

Yes the link you gave in the article does not check out. The link sent to my talk page does check out. Still, this reference mentions the term in passing and it is unclear whether the text refers to the literary device "unreliable narrator" or simply calls the character a liar. There are zillions of books about liars, and I don't think they fit the definition of this article. Since this article reeks original research and I have not enough expertise to argue, I am taking it off my watchlist. - 7-bubёn >t 16:51, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
I didn't insert the item or add the reference, that was Bosanquet1899. I don't know the book, but the other links I gave give a pretty clear idea that it does use an unreliable narrator. The reference backing the addition was to the book itself, the Google Books link is just for convenience, so not finding the relevant passage on that page is irrelevant. Google Books is just one site that puts restrictions on what can be viewed and by whom (many other article databases are subscription-only, for example). Again, just because you cannot access the source, that doesn't mean it is invalid. -- Snarkibartfast (talk) 17:20, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm fairly sure that Lori Landay (the author of the cited material), a senior academic whose book was published by a respected scholarly publishing house, would have meant exactly what she wrote.

I added this example (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) because it is a well-known, widely-read novel and when I first read it, I knew exactly what Loos's narrator was doing but did not have an adequate literary term to describe it. When I found the "unreliable narrator" definition on Wikipedia, it immediately resonated with my reading of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (novel). I thought others may appreciate this example, so sought out references to support the claim. The one I chose is clear and authentic. I think that you (SemBubenny) were actually very lazy and overly defensive in deleting it once. To delete it twice reeks of spite.Bosanquet1899 (talk) 19:41, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

Sources for the examples.

Many of the examples are unsourced. Some seem slightly dubious (e.g. Humbert Humbert of Nabokov's Lolita is included, which appears to be debatable, and is in fact debated in these sources, which question whether or not he should be considered unreliable: [26][27]). There are a number of examples that are well-sourced however. At this point, it seems to me like it would be a good idea to remove the unsourced ones, which are generally not necessary, and only allowing them back in if a source is provided. Comments? JulesH (talk) 10:29, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Examples Which Need To Be Deleted

The Slim Shady persona of Eminem is most certainly NOT an unreliable narrator. Slim Shady serves as a facet of Eminem's personality, a fact which is stated in many of his songs. Slim Shady's perspective isn't unreliable or untruthful by any means. He says things which tend to be inflammatory or obscene, and those things may be distasteful opinions because of their racist/sexist/homophobic nature, but they don't constitute unreliable narration. I honestly do not think it is possible for music to have an unreliable narrator, but I'm open to hearing arguments backed up with some evidence. VooLaLa (talk) 15:53, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

The movie American Psycho doesn't have an unreliable narrator, either. It has a psychotic narrator who does violent and horrible things, and yes it's true that psychosis can lead to an unreliable narrator, but in American Psycho, the audience always knows the truth about events that are transpiring. There's no moment in the film when you realize things are not what they seem due to the skewed perspective of/intentional misdirection by the Patrick Bateman character. We always know he's killing people, we always know he's losing his mind, we always know who he is even when others around him seem to think he's someone else. There's no twist, there's no revelation, there's nothing to suggest that Bateman's narration was anything other than reliable. (The book might have an unreliable narrator; I have not read it and can't speak on that subject. But I guarantee you the movie does not.) VooLaLa (talk) 15:53, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

VooLala, perhaps watch the film RIGHT TO THE END next time.... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:34, 27 March 2010 (UTC)

Unilateral deletion of examples

I see that examples without a source are deleted on sight without discussion. This is not good practice. The hidden text instructs ecitors that "unsourced or controversial entries can be unilaterally deleted, as per WP:RS, WP:NOR, and WP:PROVEIT", but none of these policy pages advocates unilateral deletion. WP:PROVEIT states:

"If you want to request a source for an unsourced statement, consider tagging a sentence by adding the {{fact}} template, a section with {{unreferencedsection}}, or the article with {{refimprove}} or {{unreferenced}}. Alternatively, you may leave a note on the talk page requesting a source, or move the material to the talk page."

This is the correct way to go about requesting a source. The [citation needed] tag is widely used across Wikipedia. Why should it be abandoned here in favour of lazy reversion? weaseLOID 23:20, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

Since there's been no response, I've amended these hidden instructions to remove threats of unilateral deletion. weaseLOID 18:43, 8 September 2009 (UTC)
Please read the banner at the top of this page. Xxanthippe (talk) 21:56, 27 March 2010 (UTC).

The Flowers for Algernon example is not a good one.

The point is not that Charlie's memory of the Rorschach Test is flawed; rather, his earlier understanding of the psychologist's instructions/explanation was faulty due to his cognitive limitations. Ifnkovhg (talk) 06:04, 7 September 2010 (UTC) P.S. the concept of an unreliable narrator doesn't really come into it in any event, because the reader obviously knows that Charlie misunderstands how the test works. I'm going to delete it. Ifnkovhg (talk) 06:07, 7 September 2010 (UTC)


A user wrote (in IRC)...

I just wanted to suggest an addition to the page "unreliable narrator." I believe that Victor Frankenstein (who narrates most of the story, for those who haven't read it recently) would certainly be a very strong example. Sorry to just make a suggestion, but I have no experience at all when it comes to editing.

-added here by  Chzz  ►  04:52, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

"Ying xiong"

I'm wondering whether this is an example of unreliable narration or not. Two of the stories that Nameless recites to the king, which we're meant to assume are real (even in light of them being heavily influenced by wuxia), are false. In fact, most of the flashbacks are entirely unreliable, because they're just stories being recited - even the events that we're told did happen; the ending fight between Flying Snow and Broken Sword is the only down-to-earth fight, due to the fact it occurs in the present and isn't told as part of a story. Thoughts? Backed up source ThePhantasos (talk) 16:55, 9 March 2011 (UTC)

The Sixth Sense?

Is Bruce Willis's character in The Sixth Sense an example of an unreliable narrator? He's certainly unreliable in the sense (no pun intended) that his true nature, revealed at the end, changes the way in which the film's storyline is viewed by the audience, which in itself may be enough to be considered an example of this genre... but does it change it enough to be regarded in this way? Personally I would consider it to be unreliable narration...what do others here think? Grutness...wha? 10:46, 14 December 2011 (UTC)

Sixth sense has been added and deleted a few times [[28]] You'd need a reference saying that Willis's character is an unreliable narrator.

Theoretical Framework

I am missing a bit of theoretical framework in this article. There is practically no mentioning of the debate about definitions and approaches to unreliable narration in literary studies. Would it be okay to contribute a section on the definitons and approaches by Booth, Chatman, Rabinowitz, Jacobi and Nünning? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Danielusflavius (talkcontribs) 13:20, 12 April 2012 (UTC)