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|The Third Person Voice
Written by James S.
(9/17/2006 3:12 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Edward the cipher, penned by Tina T
Interesting topic. JA's treatment of Edward seems inadequate to us, in part, because we have two hundred years of novels between us and JA. JA's great achievement is perfecting the third person omniscient voice. Before JA, there was almost nothing -- nearly all fiction was in first person.
We are accustomed to a narrator who flits in and out of the minds of all the characters and tells us their feelings and thoughts, in detail (like George Eliot in "Middlemarch"). If we have six or seven major characters, we, the readers, expect to know the thoughts of all six or seven by the end of the first few chapters. Otherwise, they are "minor" characters. But there was no common rule of thumb in 1811. Should JA spend more time in the mind of Elinor, or parse out her attention to Marianne and Edward? Be scrupulously fair to the men as well as the women? Should JA give us equal amounts of narration (pure summary) and scenes, or favor scenes over the recounting of past events? Again, there is no rule of thumb, because JA is our inventor, our pioneer. Would we expect a digital phone from Alexander Graham Bell? No, just be thankful you have a phone that is functional.
Personally, I like the fact that Edward is a bit weak -- not a burly, take-charge confident romantic hero. Makes him an individual, with his own faults, as well as virtues.
Also, JA was no doubt aware that the less you know about a pivotal character (and Edward will prove to be crucial to the plot) the more curious you, the reader, will be.
I also agree that the first scene with Edward is romantic. Edward, by his meek standards, has thrown a fit. Everyone noticed.
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