Monday, April 14, 2014

The Construction of an Adventure Narrative

The History/Adventure narrative Endurance may in fact “portray the events [of Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage] exactly as they occurred” (Preface by Lansing). Alfred Lansing’s “authentic” adventure story is without any doubt the most complete nonfiction assembly of dramatization with believability that I have read this semester (Christian Science Monitor). Based on Alfred Lansing’s own description of his process, this was accomplished by the “wealth of material” provided him in the forms of diaries and extensive interviews by the expedition members. Despite all of these ingredients for objectivity, however, Lansing ends his preface by voiding the expedition members of any responsibility over inaccuracies or misinterpretations that “crept” into this story (Preface).

His statement highlights the idea that adventure stories, nonfiction or otherwise, are manufactured. Lansing’s may have been masterfully tailored to a style of truthfulness, but the writing process intrinsically manipulated what was perceived (by expedition members) into what was presented (by Alfred Lansing). For instance, simply by reading the back cover of the book, looking at the two notated maps presented on the inner leaf of the front cover, and reading the preface written by Alfred Lansing, the reader already knows the sequence of events for the entire expedition, and many of the hardships endured. Suspense is therefore forfeited. Furthering this apparent effort is Lansing’s construction of a frame narrative using the first chapter as his canvas. By bringing the reader immediately into the moment when the expedition abandons their ship, Lansing effectively drops his reader onto the summit of a mountain without them knowing how they got there or how to get down. This stylistic effect produced the humanizing feeling of helplessness into what I expected to be an objective listing of events. Lansing’s style of constructing his adventure narrative similarly straddled a fence with objectivity on one side and dramatization on the other. This was exemplified by his lack of hybridization between colorful descriptions with the subsequent quotes he used from diaries. They appeared to be of two different worlds, one of which was intimately involved, and the other of which was unemotional and separate.  

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