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Title: The role of the narrator in selected first-person novels
Author: Penney, Sandra Gaye
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1984
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The introduction to this thesis discusses and evaluates first-person narration in the context of point of view generally. As part of the critical background to the study, attention is drawn to the Critical Prefaces of Henry James and the experiments he made with point of view in specific novels. Reference is made to the commentary by Joseph Beach on the issues James raises. Technical terms relating to first-person narration -for example, primary and secondary narrators, the reliable narrator, the frame narrator, composite narration and the Chinese box device - are defined. Norman Friedman's classification of point of view is also discussed. An important distinction between the narrator as witness and the narrator as protagonist is considered but the thesis argues against simplistically categorizing the narrator in this way. Finally, Percy Lubbock's key objections to first-person narration are considered and the advantages and disadvantages of first-person narration are discussed. Selected novels by H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Joyce Cary, Lawrence Durrell and John Fowles are used to illustrate different aspects of first-person narration. Chapter Two deals with Wells's scientific romances, The Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau, which use first person to achieve plausibility in fantastic situations, and his realistic novels, Tono-Bungay and The New Machiavelli which show contrasting uses of the narrator. Tono-Bungay is a successful memoir novel in which the narrator functions primarily as observer to give a panoramic survey of his society; The New Machiavelli fails and its failure stems largely from Wells' use of first person. Its narrator attempts to portray both his age and himself objectively. The confused and uncritical portrayal is exacerbated by Wells' identification with the narrator. Chapter Three deals with three of Conrad's novels: Heart of Darkness , Lord Jim and Chance. The first two demonstrate that one cannot always distinguish between the narrator as observer and as protagonist for in both novels, Marlow may be seen to perform a dual function. In Chance, however, Marlow is simply an observing narrator whose role is to show how fictions may be created. While the Conrad novels only accidentally form a trilogy, Cary's use of the trilogy format is deliberate. Chapter Four examines his art and political trilogies. Although the point of view is consistent within each novel, one can observe the changes in point of view from one volume to another. Each volume of a given trilogy presents a different perspective. In the chapter on Cary, I will therefore discuss ambiguity and the problematical nature of truth which look forward to issues raised by Durrell and Fowles. None of Cary's narrators develop but in The Alexandria Quartet, the subject of Chapter Five, Durrell uses a developing narrator to explore the problem of achieving truth. Different subjective realities are presented in relation to the psychologist, Georg Groddeck. As in Chance, the creation of fiction is an important theme, but Durrell approaches it differently. John Fowles's novels, The Collector, The Magus and Daniel Martin are discussed in Chapter Six. The Collector is chosen to explore the balanced use of antiphonal narration using contrasting narrators. The Magus relates to The Alexandria Quartet for both use developing characters as narrators and both are about the creation of fictions. Durrell, however, expresses this theme in terms of a narrator who is the subject of his own narrative while Fowles expresses it in terms of the relationship of the reader to the novel. The theme of Daniel Martin is again the creation of fictions. This time, Fowles alternates between first and third-person narration to draw attention to the relationship between the author and the novel.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Literature