How does Austen’s narrative style enhance the reader’s understanding of characters in Emma?

Topics: Narrative, Narrator, Fiction Pages: 4 (1327 words) Published: October 10, 2013
How does Austen’s narrative style enhance the reader’s understanding of characters in Emma? Austen’s narrative voice is one of both objectiveness and incite , as characterised by Wayne C. Booth; being as the embodiment of everything admirable – ‘wise, gracious, penetrating in judgment, subtle, witty, tender’ a reflection of which can be seen in Mr Knightley, the only other source of seemingly omniscient knowledge in the book. This narration is contrasted with the thought and feelings of Emma (revealed by FID) to both extenuate and highlight the follies, pretences, and nativity exemplified in Emma, often employing irony in the process. Austen presents ‘Emma’ as a bildungsroman and thus it is essential for the reader to witness the naivety and mistakes of Emma. The first chapter is highly important, both in terms of setting plot and signalling to the reader the literary techniques which to pay attention to. From the start of the book the reader is told that Emma is ‘directed chiefly by her own [judgment] ‘, the importance of these ‘own views’ highlighted in the first page. The way in which (, even from a perspective of a 3rd person omniscient narrator,) Austen makes note of Emma’s decision and psyche paves the way for the introduction of FID. This introduction of free indirect discourse is a typical technique of 19th century realist literature, Frances Ferguson calling it (the novel’s) “one and only formal contribution to literature”. One of the main characteristics of FID as described by Alan Palmer is its solipsistic or “centripetal” nature, allowing close scrutiny of not just a character’s actions, but of their very though processes. It is this ‘centripetal’ nature which drives the novels storyline, Emma’s continual misinterpretation of the world (revealed via FID) contrasted with the omniscient narration of Austen or Mr Knightley, allowing the reader a humorous view of Emma as well as promoting dramatic irony later in the story. This introduction...
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