Structure and Narrative Technique in "Wurthering Heights" and "Return of the Native"

Structure and Narrative Technique in "Wurthering Heights" and "Return of the Native"

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Thomas Hardy employs an `omniscient' narrator in his rural novel `Return of the Native', as he attempts to mimic classical tragedy by uniting the essential elements of time, place and action. The fact that the novel was originally intended to be of a five book structure, with monthly instalments, ending with a final, devastating climax, coupled with the numerous classical references to "Hades." "Hercules" and "Prometheus", shows even further Hardy's desire to create an immensely tragic novel, void of a desire to please societies middle-class novel reading public. Although it was to be this novel which eventually underwent serious revision, `Wuthering Heights' would have ultimately appeared as more baffling to Victorian readership. Here most of the action has passed before the novel begins, which causes a string of narrators to be used for various effect. We are rarely given differing viewpoints on the same event, and, combined with the almost anti-chronological nature of `Wuthering Heights', the story is often seen as difficult to interpret. The fact that Bronte does not comment directly upon her characters allows us to create our own decisions and opinions, as we are intended to be fully aware of the bias nature of the majority of her narrators.

It is of the utmost importance that it is not the author who tells the story; `Wuthering Heights' employs a narrative frame. Nelly Dean tells the story to Mr Lockwood, and he relates it to us. The first person narrator of the novel is therefore far removed from the actual experiences of the story. We begin in 1801, with a first person narrator, Mr Lockwood, who arrives onto the scene almost by chance, one who may have "fixed on" a completely different par...


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...ve books, mirroring the five acts of a Greek tragedy, with a prologue and epilogue, and a chorus to comment on the action. It was to maintain the Aristotelian unities of time, place and action. Problems arise due to the strict moral attitudes of the Victorian audience. Due to the extreme nature of Hardy's tragedy, and the convention of omitting grotesque or distressing material from finished works, a sixth book was added, in order to purge complaints of Hardy portraying an unnaturally depressing world. Within this sixth book, we see loose ends being tied as in the final chapters of `Wuthering Heights', as Thomasin and Diggory marry successfully, creating a considerably more upbeat atmosphere to end upon. This is done without abandoning the novels sombre undertones, as Clym is left eternally isolated, still unable to fit into the society which he yearns to improve.

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