Henry James' "What Maisie Knew".

Essay by BibsyUniversity, Bachelor's April 2003

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1. Introduction

"James's narrator, this invisible adult - and probably masculine - presence, has a significant role to play..." This is what Millicent Bell thinks about the role of the narrator in What Maisie Knew by Henry James.

In this paper, I will try to show the importance of the way the story is narrated for the effect it has on the reader.

I will first try to find a general definition for the term "narrator" for it has been discussed in literature in many different ways. I will give a few examples of the different opinions in literature and then state my own opinion.

Then, I will give a short explanation of the term "focalization" because it is closely connected with the term "narrator".

This is what Patrick O'Neill means when he writes in his book Fictions of Discourse:

"To begin with terminology, the story is presented - transformed into the narrative text - through a double mediation, namely a 'voice' that 'speaks' and 'eyes' that 'see'..."

The "voice" O'Neill talks about is the narrator and the "eyes" stand for the focalizer. This makes obvious, that one depends on the other and one cannot exist without the other.

Finally, I will try to draw a line between this theoretic approach and the meaning of the narrator and of focalization for the work What Maisie Knew.

2. Definition of the Term "Narrator"

In literature, there are different definitions of the term "narrator". Gerald Prince simply calls the narrator "the one who narrates", Katie Wales says the narrator is "a person who narrates" .

Mieke Bal is of a different opinion. For her, the narrator is the "agent which utters the linguistic signs which constitute the text... a narrator is not a 'he' or 'she'" .

Peck and Coyle...