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Defamiliarization | Narrative Perspective Explained

Have you ever wondered how a simple pen can become a mystical wand or how a mundane walk turns into an epic adventure? Well, that’s the magic of Defamiliarization! Imagine seeing the world through a kaleidoscope lens, where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the familiar feels refreshingly new.

In this article, I will delve into the concept of Defamiliarization, its history in literature, its various techniques, and its profound impact on narrative storytelling.

What is the Perspective of the Defamiliarization?

Defamiliarization, also known as ostranenie, is a literary technique that aims to make the familiar seem unfamiliar.

It challenges our preconceived notions and forces us to see the world in a fresh and unexpected way. By defamiliarizing everyday objects, actions, and experiences, writers can evoke a sense of wonder and provoke deeper thought from their readers.

Defamiliarization has a rich history in literature, with roots dating back to the early 20th century. Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky is often credited with popularizing the concept through his essay “Art as Technique.” Shklovsky argued that Defamiliarization was essential for art to have a lasting impact on its audience.

To fully understand Defamiliarization, we have to understand that notion from a Russian point of view. For Russian formalists, literary language is essentially different from any other language because, unlike the latter, it has no practical function. Literature is a language that serves to make us see things through different eyes.


What is Defamiliarization?

Defamiliarization, also known as “ostranenie” in Russian literature, is a literary technique introduced by writer and theorist Viktor Shklovsky. It involves presenting common objects, events, or situations in a way that makes them appear strange or new to the reader, challenging their usual perceptions and habits of thought. The goal is to provoke heightened awareness and understanding by encouraging the reader to see reality in a fresh and intense manner. Defamiliarization often employs figurative language, wordplay, or detailed descriptions to create an unusual perspective on everyday objects or events, fostering critical thinking and reader engagement with the text.

Defamiliarization techniques and their effects on the reader

Writers employ a range of techniques to achieve Defamiliarization.

One common technique is using similes and metaphors that draw unexpected comparisons. By comparing one thing to another, writers challenge our conventional understanding of both objects, inviting us to see them in a new light.

Another technique is defamiliarizing the language itself. By manipulating grammar, syntax, and word choice, writers can create a sense of disorientation and surprise. This forces readers to slow down, pay closer attention, and engage more deeply with the text.

Defamiliarization adds depth and texture to narrative storytelling. By disrupting familiar patterns and expectations, writers can create tension, suspense, and emotional impact. It forces readers to question their assumptions and actively participate in the meaning-making process, resulting in a more immersive and thought-provoking reading experience.

Defamiliarization is not limited to objects and settings; it can also be used to create unique and memorable characters. By defamiliarizing their traits, behaviors, and motivations, writers can challenge stereotypes and create complex, multi-dimensional characters that resonate with readers on a deeper level.

While Defamiliarization can be a powerful tool, it presents challenges and criticisms. Some argue that excessive Defamiliarization. It requires a delicate balance to find the sweet spot between familiarity and unfamiliarity, ensuring that readers are both engaged and able to connect with the story.

Defamiliarization in different literary genres

Defamiliarization is a versatile technique that can be employed in various literary genres.

In science fiction, for example, authors often defamiliarize futuristic technologies and societies to explore progress’s consequences and moral implications.

In magical realism, writers defamiliarize reality itself, blurring the boundaries between the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Examples of Defamiliarization in literature

Defamiliarization literature has numerous masterpieces. Here are some examples.

In Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” the protagonist wakes up one morning transformed into a giant insect. This absurd and unexpected event defamiliarizes the familiar notion of waking up to start another day, leaving readers both disturbed and intrigued.

Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, defamiliarizing our perceptions of time and mortality.

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” presents a seemingly ordinary girl who falls down a rabbit hole into a whimsical world filled with talking animals and peculiar characters, defamiliarizing the concept of reality itself.

In George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” farm animals rebel against their human owner and establish their own government. The novel highlights the absurdity of political power dynamics and defamiliarizes the concept of leadership.

In Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore,” characters experience surreal events like talking cats and unexplained disappearances. The book defamiliarizes the boundaries between dreams and reality.

These examples showcase how Defamiliarization can transform familiar narratives into extraordinary experiences. These novels challenge readers’ perceptions and invite them into new realms of imagination.

Embrace unconventional storytelling with bibisco

Harnessing the narrative technique of Defamiliarization is made seamless with bibisco novel writing software.

With its intuitive features tailored for writers, bibisco allows you to experiment with unconventional narrative perspectives and techniques.

bibisco story objects management tool - Defamiliarization
bibisco story objects management tool

Whether you’re aiming to challenge readers’ perceptions or inject fresh perspectives into your storytelling, bibisco provides the tools needed to bring Defamiliarization to life in your narrative.


In conclusion, Defamiliarization is a technique that pushes the boundaries of storytelling and challenges our perception of the world.

By making the familiar unfamiliar, writers can evoke a sense of wonder, ignite our imagination, and provoke deeper thought. Embracing Defamiliarization allows us to see the world through a new lens and experience narratives in a more profound and meaningful way.

So, the next time you pick up a book or write your own story, consider the power of Defamiliarization and how it can transform your narrative into something truly extraordinary.

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