Narrative Voice Of Two Nineteenth Century Novels: Middlemarch And Wuthering Heights

1922 words - 8 pages

During the nineteenth century, the novel as a form underwent a radical development and authors of prose fiction began to allow their creativity to intertwine with realist conventions. Authors such as Charles Dickens and George Eliot created a new kind of imaginative prose writing, which straddled the cusp of imagination and reality. Prior to this, the conventions of the novel were far more historical and factual than the novels of the nineteenth century – many authors at this point seemed to find it difficult to refrain from drawing their own experiences into their work - and the novel as a form was considered by many to be a very middle class idea, as the rise of the novel coincided with the mergence of the middle-class in British society. This surfacing middle-class became the audience to whom authors of this time were addressing. Many of these novels were the earliest versions of the ‘bildungsroman’, or the ‘coming of age’ novel following the spiritual, moral and psychological progression of a child into adulthood. These works were very often highly embellished autobiographies of their authors, (a prime example of this kind of novel is Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe) as opposed to the creative works of literature we as readers are familiar with today. The novel began to develop during the nineteenth century, and Victorian novelists wanted to make the novel far more exciting and interesting, but also transform it into a significant and serious form or art. As Martin Ade-Onojobi-Bennett writes:
‘the novel developed towards a deeper philosophic analysis of the implications of a situation and rendering experience which was more careful, realistic and ‘poetic’. There was a tendency to lay emphasis on the daily life of the common man, often concentrating on the sordid and disagreeable and it enjoyed an impersonal style to match. […] With this conscious movement towards realism, a new stream of consciousness in the English novel evolved whereby the novelist’s view of and disposition towards character, scene and event gradually replaced their previous approach towards these issues.’
Furthermore, the distinction between author and narrator became far more prominent leading up to the nineteenth century, and the concept of an ‘unreliable narrator’ as opposed to simply an author (for example, Thady Quirk in Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent) became more popular with the rise of the novel. Previously, novels had tended to employ first person narrative and it was difficult to differentiate between the author’s voice and the narrative voice, however as the novel developed during the nineteenth century authors began to transform their narrators, and as a result they seemed to become characters in their own right. In relation to this, Monica Fludernik writes that:
‘one of the most significant achievements of narratology is the fact that nowadays we distinguish between author and narrator. Until the […] nineteenth century, the author was held to be...

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