The essay addresses -- in the light of Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the novel -- the link between authority, ideology, and formal features of discourse in “we” fictional narratives. It presents three main types of relationships between the individual “I” narratives and the “we” group to which he or she belongs as well as between the “we” group and “other” (often hostile) groups. These types differ in the group’s stability and cohesion, the possibilities of transition from this group to another community, and the importance of the role attributed to the individual (or to a particular individual) and to other groups in constructing, sustaining, and (re)shaping the identity of the “we.”
These patterns of relationship suggest that not only can “we” fictional narratives be dialogical but also that they often challenge the norms and values uncritically accepted by the group and subvert the authority of their communal-voice narrator(s). Especially notable in this context are “we” fictional narratives in which the main conflict is instigated by an outsider, who is neither a full member of the group nor a member of a rival group and whose “disorienting discourse” undermines the hegemonic discourse. These types of disagreement, which demonstrate the centrifugal forces of the story, are evidence of the fragility of the group and of its tendency to disintegrate, unless these forces are balanced by the centralizing, centrifugal ones. First-person-plural narration is as much a force of disintegration, discord, and instability as of unison, concord, and stability.