Comparison Of Passages From Great Expectations And Madame Bovary

1420 words - 6 pages

The two passages, taken from early sections of Great Expectations and Madame Bovary, deal predominantly with the subject of death and the spectrum of approaches applied by their characters to deal with such circumstances. Both Charles Dickens and Gustave Flaubert draw particular attention to the binary codes of public and private life and the extent to which the characters are compelled to manipulate or conceal their true feelings in order to conform to their societies' dogmatic customs and expectations of decorum. In these passages Dickens and Flaubert also highlight the strength of feeling towards their lost love one of their characters, Joe and Charles, basking in what Lafayette calls "the innocence of early youth." However, Dickens and Flaubert both despondently show how Joe and Charles' love for their recently-lost wives cannot even find sanctity at the occasion of death, as both the funerals painfully become mockeries which worsen, rather than alleviate, the wounds of grief suffered by Joe and Charles.

The most notable difference between Dickens's and Flaubert's narration style is that although both Dickens and Flaubert move away from employing a omniscient and omnipotent narrator figure, one such as Fielding so dearly cherished, in Pip Dickens created a personal, informative and sensitive first person voice, whereas Flaubert refused both these alternatives. Pip's narration of his experiences and emotions throughout the novel is a considerable factor in the formation of the readers' own opinions of Pip himself and the characters that surround him. For example, there is an exaggerated poignancy when Pip refers to how `my poor sister' (257) had been carried through the house, and when Pip describes how `I was much annoyed by the abject Pumblechook', the reader feels Pip's annoyance more acutely - purely for the reason that Pip's frustration is more intensely personal than any narrator's could ever be. On the other hand, as an author, Flaubert believed it was better for him to retain a degree of impersonality in the text, and therefore Flaubert does not employ a narrator to direct readers' thoughts. As Erich Auerbach has commented in Mimesis: the Representation of Reality in Western Literature about Flaubert's work,

His opinion of his characters and events remains unspoken; and when the characters express themselves it is never in such a manner that the writer identifies himself with heir opinion, or seeks to make the reader identify himself with it. We hear the writer speak; but he expresses no opinion and makes no comment.

Auerbach continues by describing Flaubert's role as a novelist as merely to describe events with such lucidity and clarity that no additional judgement or explanation is required, such as would be given by a third-person narrator. Furthermore, Flaubert writes in a letter to Louise Colet that desires a novel with `no lyricism, no comments' (cited in George Becker's Documents of Modern Literary Realism). Thus...

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