Omission, Insanity, and Half-Truths: Unreliable Narrators In Literature

"If you really want to hear about it..." opens Holden Caulfield's narration in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye. Yet can we believe a word this self-confessed liar says?

The unreliable narrator is one of the trickiest literary tropes to get right. Get it wrong, and the story is simply too frustrating and falls apart. But when an author gets it right, the pages can't turn fast enough.

A narrator may not have all his wits together, as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, or his narrative may intentionally confuse, as in Tristram Shandy, but whatever the result, such a device helps us question the act of storytelling itself. In the landscape of modern media, it's never been more important to ask: who is talking, and what are they trying to hide?

Who is your favorite literary liar? Let us know in the comments!

Here's our favorite unreliable narrators from literature:

Unreliable Narrators in Literature