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Represented speech

Represented speech is a common device in narrative writing. Syntactic structures with represented speech differ in their grammatical organisation and stylistic value.

Intended to express the character's feelings and thoughts, psychological traits or mental state of mind through the writer's narration, they are most expressive and affective.

Represented speech (free reported speech) does not give the speaker's exact words as they were uttered. In quotation marks, it does not report the speakers words from the author's point of view either as the case is in indirect speech. Reporting an utterance indirectly by back-shifting the verb it omits the reporting clauses which are conventional signals of indirect speech.

There are two points to remember about the grammatical organisation of such syntactic structures:

  1. the use of the tenses, the future-in-the-past in independent sentences, in particular, which is distinct from the direct speech, and the use of personal pronouns;

  2. the use of exclamatory nominal sentences as distinct from indirect speech.

Represented speech is fairly common in 20th century literary prose. With some writers it has developed into a special manner of style. Structures of this type are skilfully used by creative writers. The use of free indirect speech for describing "interior monologue" has become a very widespread, if not standard practice in the fiction of the 20th century. In Galsworthy's novels, for instance, they are so effective and add so much to the artistic value of his writings that merit special consideration. They are always "in character", well befitting the personality and social standing of the character. We find here interrogative, vocative sentences, rhetoric questions; structures of this kind are not infrequently introduced into various dialogues, where the direct and indirect speech are used alongside with represented speech. Translation from one form to another lends variety to narration.


Examine the following extracts from J. Galsworthy to see how skilfully these stylistic resources of syntax serve his pen:

"Bonsoir, monsieur!" How softly she had said it. To know what was in her mind! The French they were like cats one could tell nothing! But how pretty! What a perfect young thing to hold in one's arms! What a mother for his heir! And he thought, with a smile, of his family and their surprise at a French wife, ana their curiosity, and of the way he would play with it and buffet it confound them! The poplars sighed in the darkness; an owl hooted. Shadows deepened in the water. "I will and must be free", he thought. "I won't hang about any longer. I'll go and see Irene. If you want things done, do them yourself. I must live again live and move and have my being." And in echo to that queer biblicality church-bells chimed the call to evening prayer.

Few things are so subjective as the use of represented speech. By a skilful use of its various patterns the writer is able to imply with emotive shades of meaning his own attitude concerning the person spoken to or of.