2 – Intrusive Author

Intrusive Author: Eliot, Tolstoy and earlier An omniscient narrator who, in addition to reporting the events, allows the novel to be used for general moral commentary on human life, sometimes in the form of brief digressive essays interrupting the narrative.

Modern fiction has tended to suppress or eliminate the authorial voice, by presenting the action through the characters consciousness, or by handing over to them the narrative task itself. When the intrusive voice is employed, it’s usually with a ironic undertones.

In the vast landscape of literature, there exists a unique narrative technique known as the “Intrusive Author.” This approach involves an omniscient narrator who not only reports the events of the story but also steps beyond the boundaries of the narrative to provide general moral commentary on human life. Often presented in the form of digressive essays interrupting the main storyline, this technique allows authors to delve into profound reflections and philosophical musings. Two illustrious authors who masterfully wielded the Intrusive Author technique are George Eliot and Leo Tolstoy. Their works, alongside earlier examples, showcase the power of this narrative device to enrich storytelling with profound insights into the human condition.

George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, was a master of the Intrusive Author technique. In her magnum opus, “Middlemarch,” Eliot weaves a tapestry of interconnected lives in the fictional English town of Middlemarch. Throughout the novel, the omniscient narrator frequently steps forward to impart wisdom on the complexities of human nature and societal norms. In one such instance, the narrator reflects on the ambitions of the protagonist, Dorothea Brooke, and the consequences of pursuing lofty ideals:

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

This digression not only offers insight into Dorothea’s character but also serves as a universal reflection on the limitations of human perception and the overwhelming intricacies of existence. Eliot’s skillful use of the Intrusive Author technique allows her narrative to transcend the mere chronicle of events, transforming “Middlemarch” into a profound exploration of human aspirations and their inherent limitations.

Leo Tolstoy, in his epic masterpiece “War and Peace,” employs the Intrusive Author technique to great effect. Amidst the tumultuous backdrop of war and social upheaval, Tolstoy interjects philosophical discourses that contemplate the forces shaping history and the nature of free will. In a reflective digression, he ponders the unpredictable course of events and the influence of individuals on historical outcomes:

“The most difficult thing—and for an educated man the most natural—is to do nothing. Here you have wisdom and goodness.”

Tolstoy’s intrusion provides readers with a deeper understanding of the characters’ actions and choices, intertwining the personal with the grand sweep of history. By offering profound moral commentary, he elevates “War and Peace” from a mere historical saga to a profound meditation on the human capacity for agency in the face of destiny.

The Intrusive Author technique, though most prominently displayed by Eliot and Tolstoy, finds roots in earlier works of literature. In Samuel Richardson’s “Pamela,” published in the 18th century, the author employs letters and interspersed moral reflections to comment on virtue, social class, and the struggles faced by the protagonist, Pamela Andrews. Similarly, in Laurence Sterne’s “Tristram Shandy,” the narrator frequently engages in digressive asides, playfully exploring the intricacies of language and the nature of storytelling.

In conclusion, the Intrusive Author technique, exemplified by the works of George Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, and their literary predecessors, offers a profound mode of storytelling. By interjecting digressive essays into the narrative, these authors transcend the boundaries of the plot and use their omniscient voices to impart moral commentary on the human condition. Through this technique, they enrich their narratives with timeless reflections on life, society, and the intricate web of human existence. As readers, we find ourselves not only immersed in captivating stories but also confronted with profound insights that transcend time and space. The Intrusive Author, with their piercing gaze and wise musings, leaves an indelible mark on literature and our understanding of humanity.

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