An Analysis of the Role of the Narrator in Cranford: The Transition from “I” to “We"


Victorian literature
Narrative strategy




Mrs. Gaskell carried an excellent reputation in the Victorian era for her quality works in depicting the many strata of society and social changes [1]. Among her classic works, Cranford is said to be the only book that she would reread again in her aged years [2]. The unique standing of the novel may be ascribed to its careful use of the narrative strategy, specifically the role of the narrator. However, most of the studies on the narrator focus on the feminist point of view, and very few are concerned with the changes of the narrative voice between “I” and “we.” This paper attempts to explain the purpose of this transition by analyzing the role of the narrator and her interactions with other characters. It is concluded that the change of narrative voice is an illustration of the transition of the narrator’s role and emotion, which evokes the readers’ emotional response and helps them better understand one of the themes – feminist utopia. This paper is divided into three sections. The first section looks at the social milieu of the novel. The second section discusses two major roles of the narrator, Mary Smith as a reporter and a mediator, respectively. The third section talks about the narrator’s growth from a minor character to a leading participant, and the implied theme is discussed as well.


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