I’m going out of my mind. You must say something. She is my daughter, Riri. Tell me … I’m going crazy. I realize I’ve been despicable … Tell me the girl’s my daughter!
Naguib Mahfouz, Autumn Quail
The recognition scene is a feature of narrative that has shown extraordinary resilience in literary history and transformative power in works of literature. The evidence lies in its robust survival and reinventions from antiquity to the present time. It thrives in most traditions of storytelling, and across all narrative media, from primitive oral folklore to the most sophisticated contemporary novels and films. In quality it ranges from the artistically sublime to rude cliché. The recognition scene has several key features: in its commonest form, it gives resolving shape to the plot of a story, very often providing ‘the sense of an ending’, and stands for narrative knowledge and enlightenment. It can carry – within a relatively circumscribed moment – the signature of an entire narrative. It is the part of a story that is emblematic of the whole and can thus act as the very token and sterling stamp of fiction, even though it exists in tales that are both imagined and real. In its most classic form, the recognition scene is clearly both a theme and a structuring device – what we learn from and through it – can bring closure to a narrative....
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