Does a novel focus on one life or many? Alex Woloch uses this simple question to develop a powerful new theory of the realist novel, based on how narratives distribute limited attention among a crowded field of characters. His argument has important implications for both literary studies and narrative theory. Characterization has long been a troubled and neglected problem within literary theory. Through close readings of such novels as Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, and Le Pere Goriot, Woloch demonstrates that the representation of any character takes place within a shifting field of narrative attention and obscurity. Each individual--whether the central figure or a radically subordinated one--emerges as a character only through his or her distinct and contingent space within the narrative as a whole. The "character-space," as Woloch defines it, marks the dramatic interaction between an implied person and his or her delimited position within a narrative structure.
The organization of, and clashes between, many character-spaces within a single narrative totality is essential to the novel's very achievement and concerns, striking at issues central to narrative poetics, the aesthetics of realism, and the dynamics of literary representation. Woloch's discussion of character-space allows for a different history of the novel and a new definition of characterization itself. By making the implied person indispensable to our understanding of literary form, this book offers a forward-looking avenue for contemporary narrative theory.
Alex Woloch is Assistant Professor of English at Stanford University and is coeditor of "Whose Freud?: The Place of Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture".
PROLOGUE: The Iliad's Two Wars 1 The Proem 1 When Achilles Disappears: A Reading of Book 2 3 The Death of Lykaon 8 INTRODUCTION: Characterization and Distribution 12 Character-Space: Between Person and Form 12 Characterization and the Antinomies of Theory 14 "They Too Should Have a Case" 21 Two Kinds of Minorness 24 Function and Alienation: The Labor Theory of Character 26 Realism, Democracy, and Inequality 30 Austen, Dickens, Balzac: Character-Space in the Nineteenth-Century Novel 32 The Minor Character: Between Story and Discourse 37 CHAPTER ONE: Narrative Asymmetry in Pride and Prejudice 43 Minor Characters in a Narrative Structure 43 The Double Meaning of Character 50 The One vs. the Many 56 Asymmetry: From Discourse to Story 62 Characterizing Minorness 1: Compression 68 The Space of the Protagonist 1: Elizabeth's Consciousness 77 Characterizing Minorness 2: Externality 82 Helpers: Charlotte Lucas and the Actantial Theory 88 The Space of the Protagonist 2: Elizabeth's Self-Consciousness 97 Wickham: "How He Lived I Know Not" 103 Minor Minor Characters: Representing Multiplicity 116 CHAPTER TWO: Making More of Minor Characters 125 Distorted Characters and the Weak Protagonist 125 Between Jingle and Joe: Asymmetry and Misalignment in The Pickwick Papers 133 Seeing into Sight: Mr. Elton and Uriah Heep 143 Partial Visibility and Incomplete Vision: The Appearance of Minor Characters 149 Repetition and Eccentricity: Minor Characters and the Division of Labor 155 "Monotonous Emphasis": Minorness and Three Kinds of Repetition 167 CHAPTER THREE: Partings Welded Together: The Character-System in Great Expectations 177 Between Two Roaring Worlds: Exteriority and Characterization 177 The Structure of Childhood Experience 188 Interpreting the Character-System: Signification, Position, Structure 194 Metaphor, Metonymy, and Characterization 198 Getting to London 207 Three Narrative Workers and the Dispersion of Labor in Great Expectations 213 Wemmick as Helper (the Functional Minor Character) 214 Magwitch's Return (the Marginal Minor Character) 217 Orlick and Social Multiplicity (the Fragmented Minor Character) 224 The Double: A Narrative Condition? 238 CHAPTER FOUR: A qui la place?: Characterization and Competition in Le Pere Goriot and La Comedie humaine 244 Typification and Multiplicity 244 The Problem: Who Is the Hero? 244 Character, Type, Crowd 246 Balzac's Double Vision 255 The Character-System in Le Pere Goriot 260 La belle loi de soi pour soi 260 Goriot: The Interior as Exterior 265 Rastignac: The Exterior as Interior 267 Between the Exterior and the Interior 272 Interiority and Centrality in Le Pere Goriot and King Lear 282 The Shrapnel of Le Pere Goriot 288 Recurring Characters, Le Pere Goriot, and the Origins of La Comedie humaine 288 The Social Representation of Death: Le Pere Goriot and Le Cousin Pons 295 Cogs in the Machine: Les Poiret between Le Pere Goriot and Les Employees 303 Competition and Character in Les Employees 308 AFTERWORD: Sophocles's Oedipus Rex and the Prehistory of the Protagonist 319 Notes 337 Works Cited 375 Acknowledgments 383 Index 385