Gerard Genette theory focuses on how a story is told, not the story itself. He has explained six different ideas to better clarify narration within a story. One I found in particularly interesting was his discussion of “mimetic” and “diegetic.” To me, he gave the whole show vs. tell a new meaning., explaining it as if it is a science.
In Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, there is a fine example of both Genette’s mimesis(show vs. dramatization of a scene) and diegesis (telling and summarizing events) (Barry 224). It was stressed that a balance of both is usual and preferable in writing a story. In James’s story, mimesis was shown as Douglas talked, as well, as when the governess spoke to the other people in dialogue. Only then as I reader, I could tell what the character was feeling through her speech and actions (external focalism). Internal focalism, however, it is not certain what the governess is thinking or feeling. As a read, I get a hint of what she was feeling and thinking through the narration, but not action. if I was there, in her shoes, I would have access to these internal elements.
Finally, how is the story told?
This brings me to the “story within a story” concept. Jame’s used the people gathering around a fire on Christmas telling ghost stories as the main story. However, this isn’t the main story that carries the plot and protagonist. It is not until the governess tells her particular ghost story, when the main story begins( the primary story). So, please correct me if I misunderstood the reading, the primary story is told from the larger, less important story( the story of the governess and children). When the story was said and done, the author never returned to the people sitting by the fire sharing ghost stories, because there was no point, it was no longer essential to the story. I’ve seen and read this classic technique in many ghost stories and films.
James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. 2nd ed. Ed. Peter G. Beidler. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.