Unreliable Narrators

deadline for submissions: 
September 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Humanities in Transition

Unreliable narrators are storytellers that the reader (or viewer) cannot trust. They most often occur in narratives that are written from a first-person point of view. Unreliable narrators deceive purposefully in some cases and unintentionally in others. As a result, the reader/viewer is left with the sense that something is “off.”


When I read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov for the first time, I did not realize that Humbert Humbert was misrepresenting the truth. In fact, I felt sorry for him.

How could Lolita be so cruel to this poor man?

Eventually, I came to realize that Humbert was fabricating events in order to convince the reader — and himself — that his intentions were pure, that he was innocent, and that Lolita was wicked.

How did I feel when I came to realize that I had been fooled by a pedophile?

Betrayed. Angry. Like a fool.


This month, we are looking for close readings of texts (short stories, films, TV shows, etc) that contain unreliable narrators.

What do you find interesting about this particular text? When did you first read/see it? Were you initially fooled by the narrator? How did you come to realize that you had been fooled and how did you feel?

Essays should be 1000–1500 words.