A NORTAV Analysis of Anne Rice’s The Mummy or Ramses the Damned

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Narrative Mode: DCE1

Narrator: Omniscient

Narrative Intrusion: Yes

Focal Character(s): Lawrence Stratford

Prose Type(s) and/or Beat Types(s): DCE with some occurrences of incidental narration and ambiguous beats of DCE/NCE

Narrative Tense: Past

Additional Constraints: None

Narrative Pattern: DCE1 throughout

Source: Part 1;Paragraphs 1-19


    [O1] The camera flashes blinded him for a moment. [T2] If only he could get the photographers away.

Anne starts this scene with [O1], a DCE Observation beat. The vision of soon-to-be-introduced focal character Lawrence Stratford is flooded with bright light. Notice “for a moment” here. This is a bit of incidental narration (stage direction) that summarizes the observation over time, which is fine to do in a DCE-based narrative mode if the incidental narration summarizes only a brief span of time and the technique is used infrequently. Next, [O1] triggers [T2], a typical Thought beat. This is the thought that runs through Lawrence’s mind, exactly as Lawrence experiences it.

    [T3] But they had been at his side for months now-ever since the first artifacts had been found in these barren hills, south of Cairo. It was as if they too had known. Something about to happen. [T4] After all these years, Lawrence Stratford was on to a major find.

[T2] leads to compound Thought beat [T3], which is more of Lawrence’s train of thought that provides the reader with background information. [T3] leads to Thought beat [T4]. [T4] is somewhat ambiguous, as this is technically the narrator telling this information directly to the reader, but because Anne has established a very consistent and intimate style of DCE, the ambiguous beat is experienced by the reader as if it is Lawrence’s direct thought, and thus it’s notated as DCE.

    [T5] And so they were there with the cameras, and the smoking flashes. {O6} [T7] They almost knocked him off balance as [A8] he made his way into the narrow rough-hewn passage towards [O9] the letters visible on the half-uncovered marble door.

Here [T4] leads to/triggers Thought beat [T5]. [T5] continues the ambiguous styling of [T4]. Implied initiating Observation beat {O6} interrupts into the prose chain. The cameramen bump into Lawrence “off camera.” This triggers Thought beat [T7], where Lawrence processes the observation semi-consciously as he performs the action in [A8], which links back to an activity started before the scene opens. The phrase “into the narrow rough-hewn passage” is a bit of incidental observation tacked on to the action, for Lawrence only perceives this peripherally. His sensory focus is on Observation beat [O9].

    {O10} [T11] The twilight seemed to darken suddenly. He could see the letters, but he couldn’t make them out.

Implied initiating Observation beat {O10} interrupts into the prose chain. Here Lawrence semi-consciously observes, off camera, the environment as it gets darker. This triggers Thought beat [T11] as he consciously realizes the darkening of the place and the impact it is having on his sight as he tries to read the letters. Again, [T11] is somewhat ambiguous, as it is certainly cast from the narrator. But the narrator’s presence is subtle. The narration is rendered in such a way as to enable the reader to continue to perceive the prose through Lawrence. Thus this is notated as DCE.

    [V12] “Samir,” he cried. “I need light.”

[T11] triggers a typical Vocalization beat, [V12].

    [O13] “Yes, Lawrence.” At once the torch exploded behind him, and in a flood of yellow illumination, the slab of stone was wonderfully visible. [T14] Yes, hieroglyphs, deeply etched and beautifully gilded, and in Italian marble. He had never seen such a sight.

[O13] is an initiating Observation beat. What Samir says and the sudden illumination of the stone interrupts into the prose chain. Notice there is a bit of Lawrence’s incidental reaction (“wonderfully”) tacked on to this beat. Next, [O13] triggers Lawrence’s thought in [T14].

    [O15] He felt the hot silky touch of Samir’s hand on his [A16] as he began to read aloud:

Initiating Observation beat [O15] happens simultaneously with Action beat [A16]. [A16] links logically back to [T14].

    [V17] ” ‘Robbers of the Dead, Look away from this tomb lest you wake its occupant, whose wrath cannot be contained. Ramses the Damned is my name.’ “

[A16] leads to Vocalization beat [V17].

    [A18] He glanced at Samir. [T19] What could it mean?

Here we have a typical Action beat, [A18], leading to a typical Thought beat, [T19]. What beat does [A18] link back to? That’s open for interpretation. From my perspective as a reader, I think Anne is reordering the natural response sequence here. I think [V17] triggers the thought in [T19] and then the action in [A18]. As we are in such tightly written DCE prose, we hardly notice the incorrect sequencing (incorrect in terms of using a DCE-based narrative mode, that is.).

    [O20] “Go on, Lawrence, translate, you are far quicker than I am,” Samir said.

[O20] is a typical initiating Observation beat that interrupts into the prose chain.

    [V21] ” ‘Ramses the Damned is my name. Once Ramses the Great of Upper and Lower Egypt; Slayer of the Hittites, Builder of Temples; Beloved of the People; and immortal guardian of the kings and queens of Egypt throughout time. In the year of the death of the Great Queen Cleopatra, as Egypt becomes a Roman province, I commit myself to eternal darkness; beware, all those who would let the rays of the sun pass through this door.’ ”

[O20] leads to Vocalization beat [V21], as Lawrence does what Samir asks.

    [O22] “But it makes no sense,” Samir whispered. “Ramses the Great ruled one thousand years before Cleopatra.”

[O22] is a typical initiating Observation beat that interrupts into the prose chain.

    [V23] “Yet these are nineteenth-dynasty hieroglyphs without question,” Lawrence countered. [A24] Impatiently, he scratched away at the loose rubble. {O25} [V26] “And look, the inscription’s repeated-in Latin and in Greek.” [A27] He paused, then quickly read the last few Latin lines.

Here [O22] triggers Lawrence’s response in [V23]. Notice the narrative/dialogue tag “countered.” This is a bit of subtle narrative intrusion that renders the beat somewhat ambiguous, but the narrator’s presence is ignored by the reader. [V23] leads to Action beat [A24]. [A24] has a bit of Lawrence’s incidental reaction (“Impatiently”) tacked on. [A24] leads to implied Observation beat {O25}, where Lawrence sees the result of his scratching. This triggers Vocalization beat [V26], which provides the reader with the implied observation through beat substitution. Next, [V26] leads to Action beat [A27].

    [V28] ” ‘Be Warned: I sleep as the earth sleeps beneath the night sky or the winter’s snow; and once awakened, I am servant to no man.’ “

[A27] leads to Vocalization beat [V28].

    [R29] For a moment Lawrence was speechless, [A] staring at the words he’d read. [O] Only vaguely did he hear Samir:

Here [V28] triggers Lawrence’s reaction in Reaction beat [R29]. Notice there is a bit incidental narration tacked on (“For a moment”) that accomplishes a brief summation of time.

    [O30] “I don’t like it. Whatever it means, it’s a curse.”

[O30] is a typical initiating Observation beat that interrupts into the prose chain.

    [A31] Reluctantly Lawrence turned and saw {O32}[T33] that Samir’s suspicion had turned to fear.

[O30] triggers Action beat [A31], which has a bit if Lawrence’s incidental reaction (“Reluctantly”) tacked on, plus a bit of incidental narrative intrusion (“and saw”) tacked on as well, rendering the beat a tad ambiguous. [A31] leads to implied Observation beat {O32}, where Lawrence takes in Samir’s physical appearance. This triggers Thought beat [T33] where Lawrence interprets Samir’s appearance and his previous statement, and realizes Samir is scared out of his wits.

    [O34] “The body of Ramses the Great is in the Cairo Museum,” Samir said impatiently.

[O34] is an initiating Observation beat that interrupts into the prose chain. It has a bit of incidental thought (“impatiently”) tacked on, for this is perceived by the reader as Lawrence picking up on Samir’s impatience through his speech. Remember, descriptive and colorful tags are acceptable when they are included in the focal character’s observation of another character’s speech. When they are tacked on to the focal character’s speech, it comes across as the narrator interrupting to add unnecessary information.

    [V35] “No,” Lawrence answered. [R36] He was aware of a chill moving slowly up his neck. [V37] “There’s a body in the Cairo Museum, but it’s not Ramses! Look at the cartouches, the seal! There was no one in the time of Cleopatra who could even write the ancient hieroglyphs…”

Finally, [O34] triggers Lawrence’s reaction in Reaction beat [R36], and his speech in Vocalization beat [V35]. Notice these beats are rendered out of the normal order of the natural response sequence. Lawrence’s speech continues in Vocalization beat [V37].

In this sample of Anne’s work we find a narrative mode that is extremely intimate. She uses DCE to put us deep within the perceptions and activities of her focal character Lawrence Stratford, and she keeps us there throughout. Anne’s intimate style is so consistent, the reader ignores the narrator’s presence, even when the narrator intrudes briefly with short summations, reordered beats, and incidental narration.

Source Copyright

The Mummy or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice

Copyright 1989 by Anne O’Brien Rice

Excerpted for this analysis under the Fair Use doctrine codified in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

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