The Unreliability of the Unreliable Narrator | Connecticut Public Radio

The Unreliability of the Unreliable Narrator

Jan 26, 2016

At this year's Golden Globes, the top TV honor, Best Television Series -- Drama, went to USA's hacker technothriller series "Mr. Robot." Last year, the trophy went to Showtime's "The Affair."

Between those two new shows, there are three point-of-view characters, three narrators. And you can’t really trust, you can't fully believe a one of them.

Seriously employing an unreliable narrator is maybe a new phenomenon on series television. But as you remember from reading The Catcher in the Rye or Huckleberry Finn in school, the device is used to add a layer of confusion or subterfuge or interpretability to books pretty regularly. And it’s appeared on the stage literally for millennia.

But where else can unreliable narrators be found? And what else can they mean?

This hour, we sniff out unreliable narrators in literature, film, television, song, memoir, theater, video games… maybe even in politics? We look at the unreliable narrator as a device and, probably, as a fact of life.


  • Jeremy M. Davies – Author of two novels, including Fancy, and a forthcoming collection of short fiction
  • Will Hochman – Co-author of The Critical Companion to J. D. Salinger and professor of English at Southern Connecticut State University
  • Janet Potter – Staff writer for The Millions and co-host of The Book Report
  • Brian Francis Slattery – Arts editor for the New Haven Independent


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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.