Narrating uncertainty in Bleak House and Emma
Woods, Gina Susanne
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Although D. A. Miller claims that there is no need to deny the novel’s attempt to master the narratable, I would argue that traditional novels and their authors have aspired to nothing so lofty or total as mastery. Instead, traditional novels constitute attempts to manage narratability. Charles Dickens and Jane Austen face chance, variability, ambiguity, and uncertainty and use narrative not to control these elements but to corral them into something coherent and intelligible. In spite of the requisite beginnings and endings that must bookend these narratives, they remain open-ended, laden with unanswered questions and untold episodes. At the close of the novels, some desires go unfufilled, some goals are unattained, and some knowledge remains shrouded in the mystery of the text. Thus, narrative is not intended to eliminate the danger inherent in want or equivocal meaning. Instead, it can offer methods for surviving in the face of that danger.