Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness book cover
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What is the purpose of the "frame narrator" at the novel's opening and close?

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writergal06 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The frame narrator serves a few different purposes in the novella. First of all, it allows the novella a personal perspective. By telling the story from a first-person witness account, there is more credibility and realism associated. The frame narrator also allows for commentary about actions and motivates that might not be seen otherwise. The narrator is able to give his own interpretation of people and events without being personally invested in the story. It also adds an element of suspense to the story. The audience doesn't receive information omnisciently, they receive it as the narrator relays it. Finally, and perhaps most practically, this form of narration was very popular at the time. Frankenstein and The Scarlet Letter both employ similar uses of frame narration, and both are also considered Romantic literature.

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The general purpose of a frame story is to add different perspectives to the narrative. In "Heart of Darkness", for example, the third narrator gives the reader another perspective on Kurtz. This allows the reader to decide which story is the most credible since some of the details are contradictory and can lead to various interpretations. Other frame stories such as "Frankenstein" also use this same device. Having more than one narrator makes for a much more complex story which can have many different meanings. Thus the author can include much more depth to his or her themes and explore the characters in greater detail.

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