Middlemarch

Articulating the Ambiguous Narrator College

In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, the reader is confronted with a cast of enigmatic characters, though the “character” the reader receives the most exposure to is perhaps the least easily understood, and for the simple fact that it should not be a character. Despite the supposed objectivity possessed by a third-person omniscient narrator, Eliot does away with these conventions by ascribing her narrator a certain level of ambiguity – a degree of questionability – within the narrative. This leads to the narrator developing a subjectivity contrary to its role, sometimes exhibiting unique opinions and revelations as the plot unfolds. This becomes most evident when analyzing a passage where the narrator makes two distinct observations which require varying degrees of subjectivity, suddenly putting into question the extent of the narrator’s role in the story. Eliot’s narrator is no longer a simple broadcasting vehicle for the plot, but possesses an ability to, as James Wood puts it, “draw our attention toward the writer, to the artifices of the author’s construction, and so the artist’s own impress” (Wood 6). Eliot’s mission of representation, of amplifying the insignificant, of trying to understand other people is best handled by...

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