Character Analysis

Character Analysis of the First Person Narrator in the Story “Letter to a Funeral Parlor The main character of Lydia Davis’s story “Letter to a Funeral Parlor” is the first person narrator of the story. Indeed, the character possesses more of the characteristics of an addressor than of a narrator. The character is fraught with the virtuosities of a skilled debater who, point by point, upholds the dark and controversial connotations of the term, “cremains”. The striking feature of the character is that he or she easily gets the readers of the story involved with his or her scholastic debate with the addressee. Though he or she deals with an emotional theme like his or her father’s death, he or she is quite capable of being impersonal and nonchalant of the emotional convulsion. In the first place, he or she appeals to the readers with his or her logical refutation again the use of the term, “cremains”.
Now the question that arises here is who this first person narrative “I” is. Though some evidences from the text fairly prove that it is Lydia Davis who speaks in the form of “I” in the story, there are other evidences that defy the story as her autobiographical element. Rather the first person narrator of the story may reflect the author to some extent but it also includes the fictional reality to a crucial extent. Therefore, the first person addressor of the story embodies the querulous and at the same, psychological presence of the author in the fictional reality of the story. In the story, the storyteller’s claim that is “In fact, my father himself…..was a professor of English” (Davis, Letter to a Funeral Parlor) resembles with the claim of the author in an interview, as she says, “My father was an English professor, and somehow…..” (Prose). However, this coincidence can easily be refuted. As the narrator is dealing a linguistic error, it is very normal that the author will make the narrator of the story claim his or her father to a professor of English.
Whether the first person narrator resembles the author or not, it is evident that he or she plays a significant role as the spokesman of the author. Both the form of the story (a letter) and the narrarator in the first person serve this purpose of the author well. The fictional relationship exclusively confined between the two of the narrator “I” and the addressee “Funeral Parlor” in the form of “you”. Meanwhile the readers are well aware of the fact that the addressee is not present with the narrator. In the whole story, only the narrator is present. So the readers are primarily engaged with the argumentations of the narrator. If his or her argumentation is convincing enough, the readers feel an affinity with the narrator irrespective of gender because the use “I” never reveals the sex of its speakers.
The first person narrator of the story is highly provocative and stimulating also. The narrator’s argumentation is strong enough to convince the readers. However, they are aware that the parlor is not present on spot. Therefore, the message that the character conveys to the readers is that ‘you must tell the parlor to change’. Very often, the narrator’s self-address shifts from the use of “I” to “We”. It also creates a fellow feeling among them. The character of the narrator in the story is composed of emotion and logic, as it is vivid in the following lines, “There is nothing wrong with inventing words in a business. But a grieving family is not prepared for this one” (Davis, Letter to a Funeral Parlor). But he or she argues that the word “Cremains” should not be used because it sounds like something invented as a milk substitute in coffee, like Cremora or Coffee-mate” (Davis, Letter to a Funeral Parlor).
Works Cited
Davis, Lydia. “Letter to a Funeral Parlor”, Samuel Johnson Is Indignant: Stories. New York: Picador, 2001
Prose, Francine. “Lydia Davis”, Bomb. 60, Summer 1997, 10 May 2009