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Friday, July 2, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

Though the story is told from a first person perspective, at times Lucy appears to function as an omniscient narrator.  As an active participant throughout the novel, Lucy is able to tell the reader what she chooses as well as withhold information that does not serve her purpose, such as telling us very little about her background.  Lucy displays her omniscience when she gives detailed accounts of conversations for which she is not present, such as those between Polly and Graham at the beginning.  However, one almost gets the impression that she may have spied on the latter two in order to obtain the information she imparts. 

Lucy is an observer of people and places and does not speak much herself, divulging her thoughts in most situations to the reader only.  She says of Polly, "I observed that her little character never properly cam out, except with young Bretton," before which acquaintance, "I ceased to watch her...she was not interesting."  There is some jealousy in this remark in that before Polly's arrival, Lucy, along with Mrs. Bretton, were the main recipients of Graham's attention.  Nevertheless, once Polly arrives, there is almost no interaction between Graham and Lucy.  Lucy may be attracted to Graham, who is one year older than her, but she is silent in terms of her feelings toward Graham at this point, another possible instance of withholding information.  The situation is made awkward by the fact that while Graham is 16, Polly is only six, though quite precocious.  This fact causes one to suspect that most of the jealousy may have developed later, since Lucy is a much older woman when she is telling the story.

Nevertheless, Lucy does not present herself as sympathetic toward Polly at all, surprising considering that they have similar backgrounds.  Polly's mother has died, though she seems not to have been very attentive to the child or her husband.  Lucy apparently has no parents and has had to deal with tragedy but no connection develops between the girls.  Lucy shows her lack of sympathy when Polly grieves her father's departure and Lucy, though she "perceived [Polly] endured agony," acknowledges "I, Lucy Snowne, was calm," placing herself in contrast to Polly.  It is a cold response from someone who Bronte described as having "an external coldness," though Lucy is also a person with an internal fragility that gravitates toward calm atmospheres.

The above painting is Her Comfort (1889) by Albert Chevallier Tayler.

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