Stephen King's novella, "The Body," is portrayed through an interesting juxtaposition of narrative techniques. The narrator is an omnipresent voice in this story, while he relates events of his youth when he and some friends went out to track down the body of a dead peer…
The younger character does this both through his perceptions as an adolescent and through his fledgling writing attempts. The combination of these two elements, the perception of memory and the art of storytelling, prove to be such interesting elements of King's writing that they bear closer examination.
Memory plays a huge role in the story, as the plot is told through the point of view of an older Gordon Lachance. As such, the entire story could be said to spring from his memories, however accurate they may be. The narrator frequently will note a specific location of the past and update it with current information, such as the vacant lot where the boys had a treehouse now has "a moving company on that lot today, and the elm is gone." (289). These segues serves a dual purpose, for, not only do they remind the reader that many of the events are in the distant past, they also underline the point that the narrator is reminiscing from a later date. The first point indicates that the events are complete and cannot be changed; the latter implies that the narrator is perceiving the events from a more mature vantage, having had time to process his adolescent escapades. This allows the narrator a more critical and analytic approach to the description of the story as a whole, rather than if he had tried to write it from the younger Gordon's point of view. While the younger Gordon's version could have covered all of the main elements of the plot, the narrator, through examples of conversation and story samples inserted in the text, reveals that his youthful blossoming talent was both too inexperienced and too close to the events to offer a well rounded description. The narrator himself critiques his early efforts, calling them "melodramatic," and "painfully sophomoric." He writes "It was the work of a young man every bit as insecure as he was inexperienced." (322). The author's choice of mixing both points of view allows the narrative itself to shift back and forth from the present and past tenses. The perspective of memory, however, lends a saccharine nostalgia to the story. Why else would the narrator state confessing that he never had any friends like he had at that age. He attempts to create this feeling of nostalgia in the reader as well, frequently dropping songs such as Presley's "Creole Queen" or Orbison's "Only the Lonely." He also pins down the time frame through the current events, mentioning Kennedy, Nixon and Castro. These selections are chosen specifically because they parallel themes in the story that bad things happen, but they can be survived.
The fact that it is an older Gordon reminiscing automatically alleviates concern for his character: he obviously survives the adventure to be able to tell the story in the future. But a useful function of the past tense is that it allows one to withdraw from the immediacy of the present. The narrator can describe the older gang's reprisal with the ability to analyze it that would have proven impossible had he tried to write it close to the event. Likewise, the narrator was disturbed enough by recalling a leech on his genitals - he certainly doesn't need to dwell on it more than necessary. But that is part of the import of examining the past: as he tells his editor, "The only reason anyone writes stories is so they can understand the past and get ready ...
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