Direct discourse

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Direct discourse refers to the quoted words of a character given by the narrator.



Direct discourse and its counterpart, indirect discourse, both deal with the way a narrator captures the words of a character. Direct discourse makes an effort at mimesis, attempting to represent exactly what a character says--this many times involves narrator commentary in between and surrounding the speech. Sometimes referred to as "direct speech."


"'You get off early or what?'

'I took off early.'

'Anything the matter?'

'In a way of speaking,' he said and wiped his lips.

'Not cut back?'

'No, no. They got plenty work. I just--'


'Sethe, you won't like what I'm 'bout to say.'"

-Toni Morrison, Beloved

This passage is an example of direct discourse in its treatment of dialogue. The narrator here gives to the reader in the form of direct quotations from characters.

Critical Debates

{is the term contested, challenged, defined differently, etc.?}

Related Terms

discourse, indirect discourse, free indirect discourse


Prince, Gerald. Dictionary of Narratology

Keen, Susan. Narrative Form.

Herman, David and Manfred Jahn, Marie-Laure Ryan.

Martin, Wallace. Recent Theories of Narrative.

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