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Compare and contrast the narrative structure of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford and Charles Dickens's Great Expectations

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the narrative structure of any two nineteenth-century novels. The narrative structure of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford and Charles Dickens's Great Expectations can be compared and contrasted in many ways. Firstly it is important to note that both of the narrators are looking back on certain times in their lives, however Pip's narrative reflects on a larger span of time and perhaps more significant events in his life whereas Mary Smith reflects as an observer on her visits to Cranford. Pip asserts himself as both a narrator and character from the start as he informs us that 'my father's name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip'. 'Pip' is repeated at the beginning of the novel and it is the repetition of this that asserts him as the narrator. It also informs us of his age, at this point, as he is unable to pronounce his name. We are also made aware of his family background as he is standing at the graves of his parents and states that their family's was 'the marsh country, down by the river'. Thus we have an idea of the narrator's background. In contrast, in Cranford, Mary Smith makes no assertion of herself. ...read more.

Middle

Likewise Pip spends more time in the novel discussing certain characters, for example in the beginning he tends to describe Joe in much of the narrative but the narrative structure shows that later on the novel, other characters play a greater role in his life and he turns to describing his relationship with Jaggers, Herbert and Wemmick. The narrative structure of Dickens's novel allows the narrative voice to change even though the narrator is a mature Pip looking back at his life so far and 'traces his development through the events of his early life'1. The beginning of the novel is written in a childlike voice to depict a child, for example he feels guilty for doing the littlest of things when he steals from Mrs Joe as he hears voices shouting 'a boy with someone else's porkpie- stop thief!' and tells a sheep 'I couldn't help it sir! It wasn't for myself I took it!'. This reveals his innocence and creates humour for the reader as well as revealing one of the novel's predominant themes, guilt. The narrative voice gradually changes as he begins to become discontent with his social position when he tells Joe that Estella had said 'I was common, and I knew I was common, and that I wished I was not common'. The repetitive nature of 'common' emphasises the extent to which Pip was now discontent with his social position. ...read more.

Conclusion

Pip wishes to be of a higher class than he is and thus tries to improve himself throughout the novel. Social class is also important in Cranford as words such as 'poverty' are repeated and the fact that they are of aristocratic backgrounds is asserted when she states 'our aristocratic seclusion was respected by the group of shop keepers'. However it is the theme of home that is prevalent as it plays a greater role in 'both' novels. In my opinion there is also the implicit theme of bravery as Pip is brave when he tries to help Magwitch to escape. Similarly Signora Brunoni is brave when she travels from India through the jungles with her baby. Additionally, the theme of kindness is evident, as it is out of kindness that Magwitch helps to make Pip a gentleman and it is out of kindness that the ladies help Miss Matty when she loses her income. This shows another thing they have in common as both parties bestow the money secretly, without the people knowing. In conclusion there are many similarities and differences in the narrative structure of both novels. 'Home' is the preponderant theme that links both novels. Both narrators are important but in different ways as Pip is important in providing information about himself as well as others whereas Mary is more important in informing us of the society and other characters. 1 www.sparknotes.com Nineteenth Century Novel Candidate Number: AN626 ...read more.

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