Questions, being both structurally and semantically one of the types of sentences, are asked by one person and expected to be answered by another. This is the main, and the most characteristic property of the question, i.e. it exists as a syntactical unit of language to bear this particular function in communication. Essentially, questions belong to the spoken language and presuppose the presence of an interlocutor, that is, they are commonly encountered in dialogue. The questioner is presumed not to know the answer.
Question-in-the-narrative changes the real nature of a question and turns it into a stylistic device. A question in the narrative is asked and answered by one and the same person, usually the author.
It becomes akin to a parenthetical statement with strong emotional implications. Here are some cases of question-in-the-narrative taken from Byron's 'Don Juan":
1) "For what is left the poet here?
For Greeks a blush — for Greece a tear."
2) "And starting, she awoke, and what to view?
Oh, Powers of Heaven. What dark eye meets she there? 'Tis—'tis her father's—fix'd upon the pair." As is seen from these examples, the questions asked, unlike rhetorical questions (see p. 244), do not contain statements. But being answered by one who knows the answer, they assume a semi-exclamatory nature, as in 'what to view?'
Sometimes question-in-the-narrative gives the impression of an intimate talk between the writer and the reader. For example:
"Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years." (Dickens)
Question-in-the-narrative is very often used in oratory. This is explained by one of the leading features of oratorical style—to induce the desired reaction to the content of the speech. Questions here chain the attention of the listeners to the matter the orator is dealing with and prevent it from wandering. They also give the listeners time to absorb what has been said, and prepare for the next point.
Question-in-the-narrative may also remain unanswered, as in:
"How long must it go on? How long must we suffer? Where is the end? What is the end? (Norris)
These sentences show a gradual transition to rhetorical questions. There are only hints of the possible answers. Indeed, the first and the second questions suggest that the existing state of affairs should be put an end to and that we should not suffer any longer. The third and the fourth questions suggest that the orator himself could not find a solution to the problem.
"The specific nature of interrogative sentences," writes P. S. Popov, "which are transitional stages from what we know to what we do not yet know, is reflected in the interconnection between the question and the answer. The interrogative sentence is connected with the answer-sentence far more closely than the inference is connected with two interrelated pronouncements, because each of the two pronouncements has its own significance; whereas the significance of the interrogative sentence is only in the process of seeking the answer."1
This very interesting statement concerning the psychological nature of the question, however, does not take into consideration the stimulating aspect of the question.
When a question begins to fulfil a function not directly arising from its linguistic and psychological nature, it may have a certain volume of emotional charge. Question-in-the-narrative is a case of this kind. Here its function deviates slightly from its general signification.
This deviation (being in fact a modification of the general function of interrogative sentences) is much more clearly apparent in rhetorical questions.