Unreliable Narrators in My Name is Red

Hearing from so many voices/perspectives in My Name is Red allows us to be skeptical of each character’s reliability in their stories. There are many instances where characters show moments of unreliability in their account of the truth. I think this is a critical part of Pamuk’s novel because it is up to the reader to be analytical in their evaluation of the story, especially the murder mystery plot line.

One example of this is on page 114 where Enishte accounts: “”In that case, he won’t be able to marry me,” said my clever daughter smiling. Where did I come up with the detail about her smiling? During the entire conversation, I noticed nothing accept the occasional glimmer in her eyes.” I think it is interesting how small of a detail this is to miss. It is so minor that it seems unimportant, but it also makes us skeptical of Enishte’s perspective of reality.

In a less subtle way, Sheukre openly tells us on page 43 that, “If I happen to tell a lie or two from time to time, It’s so you don’t  come to any false conclusions about me.”

I think there is an interesting paradox here: characters are willing to tell us when they are being dishonest or when they get the facts wrong, which is truthful, but they are being truthful about their unreliability.

2 Replies to “Unreliable Narrators in My Name is Red”

  1. I think it is interesting that the characters, like you said, can be truthful about their unreliability. I do not think, however, that this unreliability taints their stories whatsoever. In fact, I think that their flaws provide us further insight into who they are and what they are thinking and that if we, as readers, did not have to question everything they said, the characters would not be as realistic.

    I liked the analogy we used in class today, that each chapter or perspective is a different lens to looking at a single “painting.” There may not be a single “truth” or right interpretation of this painting and it is up to the reader to consolidate and sort through all the voices and perspectives that are given to us. Not only do the various narrators have different interpretations of the situation going on around them, at the conclusion of the book, all of us will have slightly different takeaways as well.

  2. As I was reading I also grew very skeptical of the characters especially because of the personification of inanimate objects and things in nature. It was difficult for me to wrap my head around a tree or a corpse telling me a story, but when character’s motivations were also unclear, I didn’t know what to believe. After our class discussion and reading further, I realized that this is the whole point of the book. To question everything, especially what we read and see. I think this paradox of being honest and unreliable furthers our journey to figure out what is actually reliable and what we should believe in.

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