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February 10, 2007

How intrusive!

Hamilton, Essential Literary Terms (112-149) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"An omniscient narrator who offers philosophical or moral commentary on the characters and the events he depicts is called an intrusive narrator."

Most of the terms on pages 112-149 were familar to me. I don't think that I have ever heard the term "intrusive narrator." I can think of a lot of times I have read novels with intrusive narrators though, I just didn't know the term existed. I think I would have just classified this narrator as omniscient. It seems like when there is an intrusive narrator in a story, that it's kind of biased. I'm not an author, and I don't ever want to be one, but I think I would avoid using an intrusive narrator in a story that I want to seem realistic and non-biased, as if I the narrator was just re-telling the events of a story.

Posted by CheraPupi at February 10, 2007 1:59 PM


I agree that intrusive narrator can actually be used well if you use it in the right places. But it can be awfully easy to get out of control with it. In the wrong hands, it can be an extremely dangerous weapon (note the needlessly 1000-page-long novel mentioned below). However, in "The Machine Stops," it is useful that Forster comments on the society in general when he blatantly states that religion comes back through the Machine. He obviously wanted to make a very important statement about how technology can be dangerous if we put too much faith in it. He stayed within the parameters of the story, and that's good. He didn't just ramble about feces.

Posted by: Matt Henderson at February 20, 2007 9:22 PM

Chera, I can't believe Dr. Jerz wrote that on your blog!!! Anyway, I sometimes like having an intrusive narrator. I know if I was a narrator I would be intrusive. All the readers would be saying "SHUT UP already!" But yes, I would certainly get in the way of the story, so it is a good thing I am not a narrator ;) It is all about balance and only using the intrusive narrator to achieve a purpose you would not otherwise be able to achieve. It needs to be relevant and necessary.

Posted by: Lorin at February 12, 2007 1:19 AM

Intrusive narrators can get in the way of a realistic novel, but they're really neat in humor novels. Just to take a mainstream example that a lot of people might know, did anyone see the movie Stranger Than Fiction? In the first part, where he narrator reveals that the main character was going to die because of something small and insignificant (I don't remember what) she was being an intrusive narrator. Later on she became something of the ultimate intrusive narrator, but also a character herself, which kind of detracts from my point. But, anyway, I think that's one way you might be able to use an intrusive narrator to your advantage.

Posted by: HallieGeary at February 10, 2007 10:38 PM

Aren't there already enough people online writing about crap?

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2007 7:30 PM

I agree with you. I can think of one novel in particular where the use of intrusive narrator is really annoying to me: Les MisÚrables. After the climactic battle at the barricade, Jean Valjean takes Marius's unconscious body into the sewer. For some reason, this is where Victor Hugo deems it necessary to launch into about a ten-page dissertation on the history of the Parisian sewer system. He makes an impassioned plea for us to use our waste as field manure, while we're still left wondering what's happening with Valjean and Marius. He does this numerous times, putting off talking about plot events that we really care about and using the novel as a platform for his opinions. It drives me NUTS! I'm sorry for the rant. I think Victor Hugo needed a blog really bad.

Posted by: MatthewHenderson at February 10, 2007 3:25 PM

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