Narrative Skepticism: Moral Agency and Representations of Consciousness in Fiction

By Linda S. Raphael | Go to book overview

Introduction

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE INNER LIVES OF FICTIONAL CHARacters and beliefs about what it means to lead a good life is a difficult one to determine; yet it is central to our understanding of character in fiction. Some thirty years ago, Wayne Booth observed that “Jane Austen goes relatively deep morally, but scarcely skims the surface psychologically”1 and that “it is hardly surprising that works in which this effect [prolonged internal or psychological views] is used have often led to moral confusion.”2 In this study, I am exploring the ways in which prolonged internal views may also facilitate complex moral assessments, particularly of an individual’s social obligations and responsibilities.

By representing the emotions of moral assessment in a character situated in a particular social setting, a fictional narrative can examine the finest details in the experience of pride, shame, and guilt. Rather than giving us a shallow notion of morality, novels that have great psychological complexity are capable of bringing significant challenges to and making finer discernments in what we call moral agency. Far from believing that there are moral truths in the real world with which fictional characters ought to harmonize, I am concerned with the question of how novelists have represented character in light of a growing belief that there are no ethical truths and that the universe does not supply answers to what our ultimate significance or purpose might be. That belief is related to a vast number of changes over time in modern life, all of which are represented in one way or another in fictional texts.

This study includes one novel of each of five novelists, in chronological order: Jane Austen’s Persuasion, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The first four novels are generally considered to mark significant advances in the representation of the inner lives of characters; thus each one can be taken to stand for techniques and perspectives that gave new directions to fiction in the realist and modernist traditions. I have chosen to include a novel written sixty years after the last of

-13-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Narrative Skepticism: Moral Agency and Representations of Consciousness in Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 238

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.