Breaking the rules of narrative
Posted by Karen R on October 25, 1997 at 17:41:11:
In response to Hmmm,, written by Cassia on October 25, 1997 at 16:21:27
] ] ] Byatt, our omniscient narrator, knows better then to allow this to continue. She presents the letters in the order in which they were written because that's the way it should be.
] ] But she challenges our conventional idea of narrative too. By letting us know the end of one story right at the beginning. So while it all hangs together, the different layers are revealed at different times... and in the end it's the Roland/Maud narrative that drives you through the book.
] I can agree that the Maud/Roland story drives us to the end of the book but the Lamott?Ash story carries us there also. Things from beyond the grave keep popping up: the child, the final letters, the seance. This story is definately a bi-rail system as teh stories feed on each other.
According to Byatt, "the pleasure of fiction is narrative discovery." In this novel, the pleasure is the way she is allowing us to discovery this deeply hidden knowledge about not only our historical pair, but of our present-day pair of lovers. She is refining what have been considered "truths" about these people, by carefully correcting our views and knowledge, unpeeling that onion, layer by layer.
I saw something interesting about the Pre-Raphaelites (Rossetti, et al), the painters of the group revolted against traditional ways of painting. Therefore, they believed that "figures should be grouped without reference to an artistic arrangement." Isn't this how this novel is? Sort of back and forth, with important points thrown in via the prose/poetry)???
Another thought regarding how Roland and Maud and the rest of us know the ending at the start. They/we know the ending, but none of us (except Byatt) know the in between. That all important in between that defines who and what Christabel and Randolph were and how their poetry could be understood. Maud and Roland are driven to know about that one missing year from Christabel's life.
BTW, we even know what will happen to the letters at the end from the poem on the first page. After Hercules steals or has Atlas steal the apples, no one will keep them for fear of offending Hera. The apples were sacred and couldn't survive except in the garden. (Read a little Bulfinch today!!)
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