Wise Children's Narrative Voice

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How important is the narrative voice to the themes and structure of the novel ‘Wise Children’?

Angela Carter’s ‘Wise Children’ is the fictional autobiography of Dora Chance, looking at both past experiences and, from the point of view of the author, real time events. It is written in the first person, from the point of view of Dora Chance, written in such a way as to convey the thoughts and feelings of the narrator without a direct notification of such thoughts and feelings. This means that for Angela Carter to put across Dora’s feelings and opinions of the events of the novel many other literary techniques must be involved.

The narrator herself uses many colloquialisms and phrases, sometimes turning them into puns or twisting them to a different outcome, for example ‘and what does the poor robin do then? Bugger the robin!’ this addresses the narrator’s point of view on formalities and stereotypes, allowing the reader to come to terms with her unique style. She acknowledges events and ideas which may be uncomfortable to a modern audience and gently pokes fun at them, for example ‘I’ll do it on the horsehair sofa, do what? What do you think?’ This indicates to the reader that the normal taboo’s of society do not necessarily apply and that the narrator is open with her view and opinions, this allows the reader to trust the narrator.  

The point of view of the reader changes as the book progresses, for example, within the first pages of the book the narrator directly involves the reader within the surroundings, for example, Dora states ‘this is my room’ although the room or any event leading up to entering the room is never described the scene is immediately set and the reader can imagine the room. Carter subtly adds features to the room as the paragraph continues. For example, she suggests the reader ‘take a good look at the signed photos stuck in the dressing table mirror’ causing the reader to focus on the idea of the object as though they were actually shown around the room. There are at least two instances in which Dora involves the reader as though interacting with them ‘There’s Westminster Abbey, see? ... careful, the paper is starting to crumble’ these allow the reader to feel involved and therefore more trusting of the narrator as the book progresses. However occasionally Dora refers to these ‘real-time’ moments as though in the past tense, for example ‘I squinted’ as opposed to ‘I am squinting’ however at the same time describing events in real-time such as ‘She starts to pour out tea’ as though the event has just taken place and is being recounted for the benefit of the audience, also in these moments it is apparent that no other character acknowledges the presence of the reader. This change in tenses could be for the benefit of the reader, as it would get tiresome to describe all event as they are happening and have no involvement of the reader.

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In the book time does not appear to be a linear construct. Dora appears to have the ability to stop time to allow the reader to catch up with current events, which she does so with the command, similar to a direction in a piece of drama, ‘freeze frame’. During this it appears that the idea of real-time still exists, as Dora moves from the living room to the attic and directly interacts with the reader again. This is similar to the dramatic technique carried out by the chorus of Greek theatre, in which one or more character directly ...

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