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Can you describe the narrative point of view, tone and imagery used in London Fields by...

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pashti | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted December 9, 2012 at 8:19 PM via web

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Can you describe the narrative point of view, tone and imagery used in London Fields by Martin Amis?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted December 22, 2012 at 1:06 PM (Answer #1)

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The narrative point of view of Amis's London Fields is that of first person. There is an interesting metafictional development in point of view when the narrator begins to write his "true story." Following the exposition and beginning at "Chapter 1," the narrative point of view switches to third person, yet, since this is the first-person narrator allowing us to read what he writes as he writes it, the overarching narrative point of view remains first person.

First person point of view is employed when experiences, events, actions, feelings, thoughts and motives are expressed and told about by the character involved; first person is an "I" point of view on the world and story. Third person point of view is employed when a narrator who is not involved in the story tells about it from a more or less distanced perspective speaking about experiences, events, actions, feelings, thoughts and motives of one or more characters as these happen or occur to them: third person is a "he, she, they, them" point of view on the world and story.

The tone used by the first-person narrator and the interior metafictional third-person narrator is ironic, condescending, and insultingly racist and bigoted. This tone marks London Fields as a satire ridiculing groups and society in order to recall them to accord with agreed upon morals and ethics. An ironic tone is one that employs a good deal of irony, thus ironic statements have deeper figurative (non-literal) meanings that suggest a perspective contradicting the expected one: irony is a way of saying two things at the same time about a person or situation etc. For example, this ironic statement, which is describing Keith's eyes, figuratively and ironically means Keith was drunk all the time and his eyes had a drunken, glassy glaze to them: "His eyes had a strange radiance ... [a] one-way splendor."

The tone is also condescending (to be aware of one's superiority and another's inferiority) because the narrator is speaking then writing about individuals and behaviors he abhors while posing as a sympathizer, a sympathizer who pretends to understand and care about whether Keith has the talent to be a violent thug or not. The narrators' [both the fictional and metafictional narrators (metafictional narrator: the one who calls attention to the work as a fiction, the one within the narrator's story about Keith)] insulting racist remarks and bigoted outlook add to the tone of condescension as does some of the imagery, such as the imagery relating to Keith's description:

The face itself was ... puffy with hungers .... [His] hair ... always had the look of being ... imperfectly rinsed [and] slick with cheap shampoo .... [He had] eyes [of] urban severity.

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