After having covered many of the “standard” forms of narration in her article and giving encouraging wisdom for both the narrator and the listener, Miss Wix ended with offering two more forms of narration. It was the latter which so caught my attention.
The other form is silent narration. This everyone should master, if only for its usefulness in after school life when one wants to do some serious reading at home or in the course of some form of higher education. Narration in silence needs great concentration, but once mastered it gives the possessor the power of carrying on his education for the rest of his life.
I decided to see what Miss Mason herself had to say about the matter. After all, with all I had read about narration--the hundreds of pages of books and article--the countless Ambleside Online Forum posts--why had I never heard of silent narration before coming across these last few sentences of an old Parent’s Review article?
How injurious then is our habit of depreciating children; we water their books down and drain them of literary flavour, because we wrongly suppose that children cannot understand what we understand ourselves; what is worse, we explain and we question. A few pedagogic maxims should help us, such as, "Do not explain." "Do not question," "Let one reading of a passage suffice," "Require the pupil to relate the passage he has read." The child must read to know; his teacher's business is to see that he knows. All the acts of generalization, analysis, comparison, judgment, and so on, the mind performs for itself in the act of knowing. If we doubt this, we have only to try the effect of putting ourselves to sleep by relating silently and carefully, say, a chapter of Jane Austen or a chapter of the Bible, read once before going to bed. The degree of insight, the visualization, that comes with this sort of mental exercise is surprising. (Volume 6 p. 304, emphasis mine)
But, it will be said, reading or hearing various books read, chapter by chapter, and then narrating or writing what has been read or some part of it,––all this is mere memory work. The value of this criticism may be readily tested; will the critic read before turning off his light a leading article from a newspaper, say, or a chapter from Boswell or Jane Austen, or one of Lamb's Essays; then, will he put himself to sleep by narrating silently what he has read. He will not be satisfied with the result but he will find that in the act of narrating every power of his mind comes into play, that points and bearings which he had not observed are brought out; that the whole is visualized and brought into relief in an extraordinary way; in fact, that scene or argument has become a part of his personal experience; he knows, he has assimilated what he has read. This is not memory work. (Volume 6 p. 16, emphasis mine)
I have a long way to go, as it is hard work. There are times I choose not to silently narrate as I’m simply too tired. But I have hope it will continue to get easier, and Miss Mason encourages me in this regard as well.
We are all aware, alas, what a monstrous quantity of printed matter has gone into the dustbin of our memories, because we have failed to perform that quite natural and spontaneous 'act of knowing,' as easy to a child as breathing and, if we would believe it, comparatively easy to ourselves. (Volume 6 p. 99, emphasis mine)