How does the narrator function in "Vanity Fair"?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator of Thackeray's Vanity Fair is one of the most interesting examples of the "intrusive narrator" in Victorian fiction. The narrator, sometimes referred to by literary critics as "the jester" or "the puppet -master" actually functions almost as a character in the novel, commenting on the main characters actions and talking about how the characters are being manipulated by the novelistic process. Among the illustrations Thackeray drew for Vanity Fair were several pictures of a jester figure that represent the narrative voice. The narrator not only fills in the backstory and provides exposition, as is typical of third person narators, but also provides a distancing or ironic effect, guiding the reader to look at the characters through a comedic lens rather than identifying with their follies.