Significance of Narrators: Robert Browning, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ian McEwan

Pages: 5 (1383 words) Published: April 19, 2014
The narrator recounts the events in a story.

Section B: Write about the significance of narrators in the work of three writers you have studied. A01/A02/A03

Robert Browning

Narrators are particularly significant in Robert Browning’s poems, such as in ‘My Last Duchess’ where the Duke’s voice reveals his cold and egotistical nature - creating sympathy for his late wife. An illustration of this is when he chillingly concludes “I gave commands / Then all smiles stopped together”. Superior and detached, his absolute need for control and sense of power is acute. Furthermore, the militancy in his voice is demonstrated through the assertive choice of verb “to command” and also further reflected in his short and abrupt and segmented sentence structure. At this point, the narrative returns us to the present, as the Duke appears to swiftly onto the next topic; his next wife, creating a particularly dangerous and psychopathic character.

In contrast a seemingly passive narrator is presented in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, with his twisted reflection on the situation being prevalently more dominate, adding to the air of ambiguity about his character. Alternatively, his narration follows his internal thoughts as he “debated” and “listened”.

F.Scott Fitzgerald

Nick Carraway, the Great Gatsby’s narrator, has a crucial role in the novel - acting as not only the voice, but also as a participant. His ideal perspective is a well-calculated device by Fitzgerald allowing him to act as a ‘fly-on-the-wall’. Many critics have suggested Nick plays the role of the chorus in Ancient Tragedy, becoming the link between the reader and Gatsby. Although connected - he maintains distance, never becoming too directly involved allowing him to drift between characters and situations. It appears his wish is to “to look squarely at every one and yet to avoid all eyes” perhaps lacking the emotional attachment if looking in their “eyes” and yet being able too watch. Pressure is placed on Nick’s visual perceptions, with Fitzgerald allowing the reader to infer the extent to which we trust Nick to be objective in his storytelling. As a narrator, Nick places emphasis on his positive qualities of “tolerance” and “reserving judgments”; attempting to portray an honest man, who we will hope will accurately dictate Gatsby’s story. In addition his use of a diverse vocabulary and manners suggests a well-educated background and this may be an important factor in our judgment of his validity. Conversely, he also uses colloquial language, such as hints of a regional dialect and slang language perhaps to portray a more natural and honest flow of speech.

In addition, many would review his narration as compelling, however it is interesting to the point to which we believe his account to be reliable and unbiased. His reliance on memory to tell the story, having experienced it two years after the events had taken place suggests there may be a lack of detail; we must establish if the details are important in such a novel. Within Nick’s self-reflective style as a conscious narrator he is able to select and determine the structure in which events are presented to the reader. For instance, the way in which he introduces Gatsby to the reader in sections, with the air mystery, piquing the reader’s interest of this ambiguous character. Suspicion can also be found perhaps in Nick’s blatantly parochial attitude, illustrated when he explains that life is best “looked at from a single window”. Perhaps, this ironically takes away from the impressiveness of Gatsby, as we begin to wonder if he may not be evaluating the whole picture, perhaps even sacrificing truth and accuracy for the sake of simplicity. This is typified when Nick immediately believes “it was all true” upon being shown Gatsby’s medal – does this suggest his naivety or his ignorance of the details to make his tale more exciting?

An additional aspect to be considered is Fitzgerald’s use of a retrospective...
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