Monday, December 20, 2010

A Charles Dickens/Writing Style Question

(Lest anyone think I've abandoned all mystery-related posting in favor of bad Haiku for a bad NFL team, today's post is presented.)

I started Charles Dickens' "The Cricket on the Hearth" today. I've never read it and am looking forward to reading it in these days leading up to Christmas.

What struck me was the style of prose. Not the lofty, lengthy sentences Dickens was prone to write. I'm talking about the insertion of Dickens himself into the story. Or, rather, A Narrator. Exhibit A is the first paragraph:
The kettle began it! Don't tell me what Mrs. Peerybingle said. I know better. Mrs. Peery- bingle may leave it on record to the end of time that she couldn't say which of them began it; but, I say the kettle did. I ought to know, I hope! The kettle began it, full five minutes by the little waxy- faced Dutch clock in the corner, before the Cricket uttered a chirp.
The Narrator knows the story and is telling the story. He has authorial asides but also knows the inner thoughts of the main characters.

Is there a term for this type of writing? My first thought was that it was third person omniscient, but, usually, the Omnipotent Author doesn't insert himself into the story. C. S. Lewis does this, too. Is this an English thing?

Any thoughts?

(NOTE: My writing at this blog has been pretty sparse in recent months. I plan on re-upping on my blog commitment starting in January. Thanks for reading.)


Charles Gramlich said...

I definitely think it's a British mannerims. Sort of tongue in cheek, sort of too cool for school. I think it reflects a particular way of looking at the world, and it has a "distancing" effect in general on me, although that's not always bad.

Perplexio said...

I don't know whether or not a term for this style of writing exists. I'd guess, yes, although I don't know what the term is. I'd describe it almost as "First Person Omniscent."

I've read books where the main character addresses the reader directly in kind of a Ferris Bueller doing asides to directly address the audience in literary form. There are some contemporary authors I've read who use this device. If you're interested I could send you a short list of such books/authors.

Scott D. Parker said...

Charles - In the hours since I posted that blog--and with the continual listening of the story--it's almost an affectation. Yes, it's distancing, but, when you think that it's Dickens himself telling the tale, it's almost fun.

Perplexio - I'd very much enjoy reading your list, long or short. Thanks.

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