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In Etienne's family, the narrator finds himself cast in a role that is in the first instance a marginal one, "car on ne s'incorpore pas ainsi a une famille, simplement parce qu'on le decide." An only child himself, he is unconversant with the rituals that govern the life of large families, and is consequently bemused by the small tyrannies, the secrets, and the unspoken pacts that circulate so freely among its members.
After blaming literary critics' lack of faith in "the competence of linguistics to embrace the field of poetics" on "the poetic incompetence of some bigoted linguists," Jakobson closes with, "All of us here, however, definitely realize that a linguist deaf to the poetic function of language and a literary scholar indifferent to linguistic problems and unconversant with linguistic methods are equally flagrant anachronisms" (377).