The Custom of the Country

by Edith Wharton

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Compare the narrative technique and language use in The Custom of the Country and Far from the Madding Crowd.

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Both novels The Custom of the Country and Far from the Madding Crowd use third person narrators, dialogue and characterization.

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The novelsThe Custom of the Country and Far from the Madding Crowd have similar narrative techniques since they each employ third-person narrators, dialogue, and characterization.

The third-person narrators allow Edith Wharton and Thomas Hardy to know everything about the characters and events in their respective novels. The third-person...

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narrator in Hardy’s novel allows Hardy to detail how Bathsheba thinks and proceeds after receiving news that her husband has died. Similarly, the third-person narrator in Wharton’s novel lets Wharton delve into how the characters respond to Ralph and Undine’s divorce.

Another technique that propels the narrative is dialogue. Through conversations, the reader's knowledge of the characters and plot points expands. Dialogue clarifies that Troy has supposedly drowned in Hardy’s novel. It reinforces the scandalous nature of Undine’s behavior in Wharton's novel.

The narrative techniques also rely on characterization. Hardy and Wharton create distinct characters with specific traits. These characters clash with one another to produce a compelling plot. In Far from the Madding Crowd, the overbearing William Boldwood, the tempestuous Frank Troy, and the loyal Gabriel Oak play off against one another. In The Custom of the Country, Wharton characterizes Undine as “fiercely independent and yet passionately imitative.” To build a dramatic narrative, Wharton pits Undine's singular character against conventional and staid characters like Ralph.

Since the narratives are in the third-person, the language isn’t restrained. Wharton and Hardy are free to use whatever words they wish since their narrators aren’t characters and, thus, don’t have to narrow their diction.

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