A-level English/Wise Children/Narrative Techniques
The Language and Narrative voice in Wise Children
There are several narrative strategies used in Wise Children. Angela Carter uses a first person narrative allowing an intimate tone to be created between the characters of the novel and the reader. The novel has conversational as well as chatty elements to its tone with which Carter talks to the reader through Dora Chance, intimacy is even created through Dora's crude language such as the line "bugger the robin" and by talking to the reader as if they are in the room with Dora. An example is when she is looking at a photo of Tiffany she states "isn't she lovely?" as if she is expecting a response. The tone of the narrative is also quite reflective.
The plot of Wise Children is non-linear: it doesn't follow a chronological plot line. Dora can frequently revert from the present to the past in a few short paragraphs. This reflects the carnivalesque elements of the book: with the idea of chaos and dissaray.
Narrative techniques include:
Q. Why is London like Budapest A. Because it is two cities divided by a river. which links to a tale of two cities by Dickens where London and Paris are referred to.
"Good Morning let me introduce myself. My name is Dora Chance"
"Bugger the robin"
"And wars are facts we cannot fuck away..."
"There's more to fathering than fucking..."
"...Don't be a bitch Dora..." (commenting on herself)
"We can still lift a leg higher than your average dog, if called for."
"We were wet for it, I tell you! Such a rush of blood to our vitals when we started to dance!"
"What a joy it is to dance and sing"
"Hope for the best, expect the worst" - Grandma Chance's wisdom
"Lo, how the mighty have fallen."
"I made my bow five minutes ahead of Nora"
"That was my last curtain call..." (after sleeping with Perry)
"Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends". (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
"Making the beasts with two backs" (Othello)
By basing the event of the day and the novel itself, Carter is comparing and drawing similarities between everyday life and Shakespeare. This ties in with the theme of high-low culture and bringing Shakespeare back to the masses.
"Did she fall or was she pushed? That was the question" - Link to Hamlet (to be or not to be, that was the question)
'To butter or not to butter'-My lady Margerine.
"She would look teddibly, teddibly British"
"She made mountaynes out of molehills"
"...a nayce musical comedy..."
"Irish? Who's he?" - The reader must read much further on to understand the disorientating first few pages. The changes in time frame whet the readers appetite by giving information on characters which occur much later in the novel.
"No. Wait. I'll tell you all about it in my own good time."
Dora as a narrator
Dora can be seen as an unreliable narrator on several occasions she fails to recollect the next part of the story, as she is telling it from memory.
- "I have a memory, though I know it cannot be a true one..."
- "I could have sworn that..."
- "these days, half a century and more later, I might think I did not live but dreamed that night..."
- "I misremember. It was sixty-odd years ago you know"
- "At my age, memory becomes exquisitively selective"
- "drunk in charge of a narrative"
- "We watch so many old movies our memories come in monochrome."
"As I remember it, a band struck up out of nowhere"
Labels such 'unreliable narrator' and 'magical realism' are inadequate for the complexities of Carters fiction. Rather it can be said that it is more the structure of the novel not being in order allows Dora to weave in new characters and themes.