Austen’s Narrative Perspective and the Problem of Interpretation in Emma and Persuasion

Stephanie Chen

Abstract


In the novels Emma and Persuasion, Jane Austen uses different narrative perspectives as experiential didactic tools for her audience. Using both confined and fluid narrative perspectives, Austen simultaneously presents subjective and objective perspectives to her readers. These seemingly conflicting perspectives present multiple realities that challenge readers’ assumptions about how to relate to certain characters, and how characters relate to one another. Austen does not make judgments for her audience or privilege any view of reality, however, and in fact seems to discourage the formation of absolute judgments, an act that her devout Anglican background might suggest she believes ought to belong only to God. Instead, the use of narrative perspective in Emma and Persuasion presents readers with a different experience. The narrative perspective allows readers to view others more generously, reassess their own process of judgment, and experience a more complex, conflicted world without straightforward answers—a fictional experience with further applications in reality.


Keywords


Jane Austen; Emma; Persuasion; narrative perspective; narrated perception; free indirect discourse

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