Unrconventional Narrators Within Howards End and Heart of Darkness

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Howard’s End of Darkness: The Unconventional Narrator

E. M. Forster’s Howards End is a tale told by a third person omniscient narrator, most of the time. Now and then there is a departure where our narrator identifies himself as the author of the work, and interjects commentary. This pattern emerges in the very first sentence of the work, where the narrator tells us “[o]ne might as well begin with Helen’s letter to her sister.” This immediately sets up the reader to consider the role of the narrator in the piece, and to reserve making any conclusions hastily. In the aforementioned letters the narrator edits out information he deems unnecessary to the story at hand. The reader learns right away that they will not be receiving an unbiased, subjective accounting of what occurs, but filtered through the narrator’s lens.

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness also has a fallible narrator, but the tale is told in a first person point of view, nestled within another first person point of view. Here the reader is presented a story not through one set of eyes, but two. Marlow, our chief narrator, tells the bulk of the story. He would like to think of himself as a reliable, unbiased source, but it becomes clear he is not entirely so. His story is actually being recounted to the reader through an unidentified first person narrator, making the tale a hearsay recollection of a biased account of a personal journey. The reader remains cognizant of the need to be skeptical due to the first person point of view, a constant reminder of the source of the information.

Howard’s End, being told through a third person, makes it easy to forget that the narrator has an opinion. It is when the narrator abruptly transitions into first person to interject an opinion that the reader is jarred out of the comfort of the unbiased clear third person. His interjections offer a curious glimpse into his motivations. In some instances he apologizes for portrayals, reminding the...
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