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Thread: Unreliable narration

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Unreliable narration

    I am about half way through. Reading Elinor's thoughts about the Steele sisters. In particular Lucy, I wondered whether she was being fair. I thought maybe she was being a bit *****y. I have not got to the end of the book so I don't know if her assessment of those characters were right. I wondered whether Elinor was an unreliable narrator, only the book is not written first person. It was written in free indirect discourse. Jane Austen is often credited with inventing free indirect discourse, so maybe this was the first time the technique was used to describe an experience of a mind who is not impartial.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    It has been ages since I read Sense and Sensibility so I donīt remember it anymore. But if Jackson Richardson looks into the forum he will certainly be able to answer you.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Since Lucy Steele is a "steely" major character in S & S, I won't spoil the novel by speculating on the accuracy of the narrator's or Elinor's opinions.

    However, I do blame Elinor, Marianne and the narrator for their dismissive attitude toward Nancy Steele, who is one of my favorite minor Austen characters. Nancy is so unattractive that we modern readers might hope for a bit more understanding, and I cannot but blame Elinor for refraining from teasing Nancy about "the Doctor".

    In this brilliant passage, we see the kindhearted Nancy reduced to being forced to tease herself (if kindly Sir John is out):

    ....for though she (Nancy Steele) often threw out expressions of pity for her sister to Elinor, and more than once dropt a reflection on the inconstancy of beaux before Marianne, no effect was produced, but a look of indifference from the former, or of disgust in the latter. An effort even yet lighter might have made her their friend. Would they only have laughed at her about the Doctor! But so little were they, any more than the others, inclined to oblige her, that if Sir John dined from home, she might spend a whole day without hearing any other raillery on the subject than what she was kind enough to bestow on herself.
    Come, now. We know Marianne is rude -- but surely Elinor can refrain from her "look of indifference". I can picture Marianne's look of "disgust" perfectly. Marianne's feelings are just SO much more high fallutin' than Nancy Steele's! (Of course this is both snobbish and true.)

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    By the way, for those who may have missed the indelible portrait of Nancy Steele in S & S (i.e. most readers not obsessed with Austen novels), Miss Steele "was nearly thirty, with a plain and not a sensible face."

    Of her journey to London she declares, "We came post all the way, and had a very smart beau to attend us...." The "smart beau" was none other than Dr. Davies, about whom Nancy says, "Everybody laughs at me about the doctor, and I cannot think why. My cousins say they are sure I have made a conquest; but for my part, I declare I never think about him from one hour's end to another...."

    Marianne is too heartbroken to tease Nancy, but why does Elinor refrain?

    The quotation above, what is more, is not the only occasion on which Elinor fails to supply the required badinage. When they meet in Kensington Gardens, Nancy is wearing a new hat, and is forced to say, "There now, you are going to laugh at me too. But why should I not wear pink ribbons? I do not care if it is the doctor's favourite colour. I am sure, for my part, I should never have known he did like it better than any other colour if he had not happened to say so. My cousins have been so plaguing me."

    Thank goodness for the cousins, for we are told, "Elinor had nothing to say." A little later, Nancy claims that her cousins might advise her to write the doctor (the "doctor" was doubtless a clergyman, not a physician) to get Edward a curacy. Nancy was prepared to answer: "La! I shall say directly. I write the Doctor indeed!"

    Elinor coldly replied, "It is a comfort to be prepared for the worst. You have got your answer ready."

    The Doctor (I might add) is another of my favorite Austen characters. He never actually appears, but I am prepared to imagine him a staid, middle-aged clergyman who was kind to the Steele sisters on their post ride, but never gave Nancy the slightest thought since.

  5. #5
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    By the way, for those who may have missed the indelible portrait of Nancy Steele in S & S (i.e. most readers not obsessed with Austen novels), Miss Steele "was nearly thirty, with a plain and not a sensible face."

    Of her journey to London she declares, "We came post all the way, and had a very smart beau to attend us...." The "smart beau" was none other than Dr. Davies, about whom Nancy says, "Everybody laughs at me about the doctor, and I cannot think why. My cousins say they are sure I have made a conquest; but for my part, I declare I never think about him from one hour's end to another...."

    Marianne is too heartbroken to tease Nancy, but why does Elinor refrain?

    The quotation above, what is more, is not the only occasion on which Elinor fails to supply the required badinage. When they meet in Kensington Gardens, Nancy is wearing a new hat, and is forced to say, "There now, you are going to laugh at me too. But why should I not wear pink ribbons? I do not care if it is the doctor's favourite colour. I am sure, for my part, I should never have known he did like it better than any other colour if he had not happened to say so. My cousins have been so plaguing me."

    Thank goodness for the cousins, for we are told, "Elinor had nothing to say." A little later, Nancy claims that her cousins might advise her to write the doctor (the "doctor" was doubtless a clergyman, not a physician) to get Edward a curacy. Nancy was prepared to answer: "La! I shall say directly. I write the Doctor indeed!"

    Elinor coldly replied, "It is a comfort to be prepared for the worst. You have got your answer ready."

    The Doctor (I might add) is another of my favorite Austen characters. He never actually appears, but I am prepared to imagine him a staid, middle-aged clergyman who was kind to the Steele sisters on their post ride, but never gave Nancy the slightest thought since.
    Interesting, I have not got to that bit yet.

    There was an earlier chapter in which the Dashwood sisters first met the Steele sisters. Elinor appeared to think the Steeles were toadying up a bit too much to Lady Middleton (I think it was her) about her boisterous children. The way I interpreted it, the Steele sisters may just have been being very polite. A little later in the evening, Nancy Steele tells Elinor that she had a notion that she thought the children were slightly on the badly behaved side. I thought there that Nancy had detected something slightly supercilious in the Dashwoods.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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