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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Eye-to-eye monologues" : self-conscious narrators in some modern novels Rampton, David Paul

Abstract

The thesis is a study of a series of modern story tellers and one of their antecedents, the narrators of "The Good Soldier", "The Great Gatsby", "The Catcher in the Rye", "Lolita", "Despair" and "Great Expectations". The emphasis is on the "eye-to-eye monologue" (as Hermann calls it), and the central role played by the narrator's imagination in re-creating his life in his story. That story describes the failure of man's attempt to make his life resemble a work of art in which dreams come true. He successfully makes an aesthetic representation that takes on the ironic form and content of his age. The critic's penchant for plotting the aesthetic distance between the author of the book and the fictional character he creates; the concern with the ironic attitude of author towards narrator; the emphasis on the unreliable ignorant guide parodied by an omniscient and omnipresent author — all these conjectural areas are avoided. The thesis, instead of presumptuously ridiculing the inadequacies of the narrator, attempts to concentrate on what he does know and does relate. After all, he knows enough to tell the story; he has the right to tell it in his own way; he demands an audience attentive and alert enough to play a participatory role in the story he tells. The ironic pattern of frustrated expectations which culminates in the realization that the dream is in fact a fiction in the story that articulates it; the crucial nature of the different kinds of imaginative vision the narrator attempts; the significance of the self-conscious articulation of the attempts as reflected in the form of the novel itself; the external bond with the reader he addresses; the ironies that the narrator himself creates using the advantages of retrospection to re-create the ironic mythos that constitutes all men's stories — each novel is considered in terms of these basic concepts. Concerns implicit in earlier and representative works of modern fiction become explicit in "Lolita" and "Despair", in which the narrator asserts that the art and artifice he uses to make sense of his life are the essential component of that life. The narrator's and reader's final belief is to believe in a fiction. Believing in each other, they finally see eye-to-eye and, I-to-I, confirm the human capacity for creative empathy and imaginative vision.

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