An introductory section explores the semantics as well as the psychological effect of uncertainty and points out its pervasive if unacknowledged presence in contemporary narratology. Using a range of examples from contemporary fiction, the main section examines the crucial and somewhat paradoxical role of uncertainty in two major areas of narrative fiction: temporal structure and the persona of the narrator.
1) Temporal structure: readers crave — and rely on — temporal certainty a well-defined temporal progression, and specification of time as necessary to help them establish a temporal frame of reference for the events presented. Within this framework, uncertainty has specific uses.
2) The narrator: realism of the story world depends on narrative certainty. A reliable and credible narrative voice contributes significantly to this kind of certainty. Yet conversely, an uncertain narrator can actually enhance the credibility of story and plot.
Uncertainty thus contributes to shaping the fictional narrator as a subject persona for the reader. As textual construction and as effect on the reader, it can serve both to reinforce and to deconstruct the realism of a text. Finally, narrative uncertainty can serve as a commentary on history and acquire an ethical dimension.