What is authorial intervention?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A popular literary tool of writers from the nineteenth century, particularly Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo, and O. Henry in the latter part of the century, authorial intrusion in the injection of the writers into their texts as they depart from the narration of the literary work and address the reader, thereby establishing a one-on-one relationship between writer and reader. Thus, authorial intrusion causes the reader to become an active, rather than passive, participant in the narrative and, at the time of the intrusion, the main focus of the attention of the author. 

Examples of authorial intrusion are Dickens's use of direct address to the reader--"And, now, dear reader....." or his injection of just himself as in the opening chapter of Oliver Twist:

Although I am not disposed to maintain that the being born in a workhouse, is in itself the most fortunate and enviable circumstance....I do mean to say that in this particular instance....

In his Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Victor Hugo has passages on the beauty of the Gothic architecture in which he intrudes in his efforts to preserve it.
O. Henry, too, uses authorial intrusion, but humorously, or with sentimentality. For instance, in "The Gift of the Magi," he writes in his final paragraph,

The Magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger....But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two were the wisest....They are the Magi.

Finally, in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Austen opens with authorial intrusion, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."  And, in another chapter Austen comments,

It was a rational scheme, to be sure! but from what the report of their engagement could originate, Elizabeth was at a loss to imagine; (Ch. 57)

Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters....I wish I could say, for the sake of her family....

Organized societies of families and communities are an integral part of Jane Austen, and she projects this idea of organized groups in various pages of the novel.

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