How do the narrators of the novels Pride and Prejudice, by Jand Austen, and Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Dufoe, compare and contrast?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There is a significant contrast between the Narrative Point of View in Pride and Prejudice and Robinson Crusoe.

Austen's Pride and Prejudice is written in Third Person Omniscient. The narrator stands outside of the story, seeing and knowing all. The Third Person Omniscient narrator will also relay the narrator's thoughts and opinions about what is going on in the story. We can tell that Pride and Prejudice is written in Third Person Omniscient once we read the opening line, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" (Ch. 1, Vol. 1). This line not only sets the ironic, humorous tone, but also gives us our first look inside the narrator's head. The narrator is already beginning to show us that she is about to criticize society and the commonly held notions of society, all throughout the book. We can also see the Third Person Narration once the dialogue in this chapter begins, "'My dear Mr. Bennet,' said his lady to him one day..." (Ch. 1, Vol. 1). Since we do not see the word "I" here, but instead are told about the characters' actions from an outside perspective, we know that this novel is written in Third Person Omniscient.

However, beyond that, since Pride and Prejudice actually focuses primarily on the character Elizabeth, and the author gives us far more of Elizabeth's thoughts and feelings than the other characters, we also know that the Narrative Point of View is Third Person Limited Omniscient. We begin to get the impression that Elizabeth is the center character of the story when we see that she is the first character addressed by her father in the beginning of the second chapter. Mr. Bennet, after having visited Mr. Bingley, sees Elizabeth "trimming a hat" and says to her, "I hope Mr. Bingley will like it, Lizzy" (Ch. 2, Vol. 1). Since Elizabeth is the very first person addressed in this next chapter, we can assume that she is a significant character.

In great contrast, Daniel Defoe narrates Robinson Crusoe with the First Person Narrative Point of View. The biggest clue that a story is narrated in First Person is that the words "I" or "me" are frequently used. Books that are written autobiographically are always written in the First Person, and Robinson Crusoe is certainly an autobiographical work and even includes excerpts from a diary. Our first clue that Robinson Crusoe is written in First Person is found in the very first line of the novel. The novel begins, "I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family" (Ch. 1). Not only is the word "I" present in this line, proving that it is written in First Person, but mentioning birth year and birth place is also characteristic of an autobiography.

Beyond being written in First Person, it can also be said that Robinson Crusoe is written in First Person major participant, meaning that the person we see being called "I" plays a central role in the story. Since the story is about Robinson Crusoe's life, not only is he the narrator, but he is also the central character. Without Robinson Crusoe there would be no story, therefore, we know know that the narrator is also a major participant in the story.


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