AS English Lang and Lit: Persuasion - Jane Austen - Notes on Narrative Style and Technique

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Persuasion: Narrative Technique and Style
Narrative Voice
This voice is marked by confidence that we will share a certain set of values, and will
agree with the narrator's view of the world. So, we enter into a process of judging
character and interpreting events, which may often be far from straightforward, yet
the result will confirm the authority of that shared set of values.
For example, it is evident that the narrator espouses moderation against excess,
honesty against duplicity, sensitivity against callousness, intelligence against
stupidity, mutuality against selfishness, and it is anticipated that we will do the same.
Jane Austen's vocabulary signals clearly where our sympathies should lie in a
comparative evaluation of, say, Sir Walter Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. The
narrator can safely assume that we will support Anne's position against that of her
sister Elizabeth, because there is moral consensus.
Narrative point of view
One of the most important questions a writer must ask when telling a story is to ask
through whose eyes will my reader learn of my story? Clearly, one of the key aspects
of a story is that it is told in a trustworthy, interesting and engaging manner; it is
important, therefore, to create a narrator that fulfils these three key requirements.
There are two main choices of 'narrative viewpoint':
First person narrative
This viewpoint uses the pronouns 'I' or 'we' to tell the story. Frequently, the narrator
is who the story is about - the protagonist, but it could be any character within the
story. A difficulty of 'first person perspective' is that the reader can only know the
thoughts of the narrator; equally, such narrators are restricted in where they can be
and in what and who they can know. This makes a first-person narrative somewhat
more difficult to tell; however, such stories can be highly effective because the reader
can more easily relate to the 'I' who is telling the story. Also, through the use of
dialogue, other viewpoints can be introduced. An important consideration when you
are analysing such a story is how the narrator becomes trustworthy and believable -
and how reliable they are and what this means to the story.
Third person narrative
This viewpoint uses the pronouns 'he', 'she' or 'they' to tell the story. The story
appears to be being told by the writer, but it needn't be so. Also the narrator can be
created so as to be what is called 'omniscient' or 'all-knowing'; here, he or she seems
to know about every character and every place, being able to move around at will -
like an 'all-seeing' eye'; alternatively, and very commonly, the narrative voice can be
'limited-third person'; here, the narrator is biased to one of the character's - usually
the protagonist. This latter viewpoint is very close to 'first person' narrative. Once

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Such a consensual understanding of values is a prerequisite for effective satire.
Deviations from proper behaviour can only be measured if we have a reliable
yardstick to gauge what is proper. It is likely that despite many changes in the way
we live Jane Austen's readers today will have little trouble in sharing her broad sense
of right and wrong, and so will be able to recognise easily the targets of her satirical
approach.…read more

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Writing at a time when the taste for Augustan values of reason and restraint was
being contested by Romantic values of passion and spontaneity, Jane Austen seems to
have recognized that the consensus on affairs of the heart had been broken. So, the
concern of the novel with the relative merits of taking risks and exercising caution, of
impetuosity and security, does not lend itself to easy resolution.…read more

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So, for example, when Henrietta Musgrove, at the start of Chapter 12, expresses the
wish that Dr Shirley should retire and live in Lyme, her ostensible concern is for the
curate's health. But we know that the real reason for her view is that she wants
Charles Hayter to accede to the Uppercross curacy, in order that she might marry him.
We might call this an irony of intention.…read more

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Anne from his grasp. The entire
scene is a triumph of expressive choreography.
Jane Austen's liking for theatrical convention may also be detected in her less
sophisticated recourse to the contrivance of coincidence. The fortuitous letting of
Kellynch Hall to Wentworth's brother in law, or the chance encounter with William
Elliot in Lyme seem improbable, but the inclusion of such elements heightens
dramatic tension and facilitates rapid development of the plot.…read more


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