Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Active vs. Passive Narration

It is interesting to compare Watson as a narrator of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” with the unknown narrator of “Lady Audley’s Secret”. Watson plays a much more active role as both a narrator and as a character, whereas the narrator in “Lady Audley’s Secret” was only there to observe the other characters. “Holmes laid his hand upon my arm. ‘If my friend would undertake it there is no man who is better worth having at your side when you are in a tight place. No one can say so more confidently than I.’” (pg. 48) from “The Hound of the Baskervilles” compared to just an omnipresent rendition of the events as in “Lady Audley’s Secret”. Watson will also be doing his best to be an accurate narrator because he has been sent on a mission for Holmes, so the reader will be able to observe the plot with a narrator that is paying close attention to everything around him. The reader gets detailed descriptions of the landscape and analyses of the other characters as Watson writes and reports back to Holmes. The narrator of “Lady Audley’s Secret” had no part in the action of the book, and also did not seem to follow one character in particular, and in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Watson almost revolves around his interactions with Holmes. On page 27, Watson skipped over most of his day because it was not spent with Holmes: “I therefore spent the day at my club, and did not return to Baker Street until evening. It was nearly nine o’clock when I found myself in the sitting-room once more.” It is only once Watson is distanced by more than a few miles from Holmes that the reader is given a more detailed description of what Watson is doing away from Holmes.

1 Comment

  1. I also thought the distinction between narration was interesting, and I believe that the narration from Watson was better accomplished than the narration of Lady Audley’s Secret. Being that the narration of Lady Audley’s Secret was omniscient, we as readers had insight on the thoughts and action of a multitude of characters which took away from the suspense of the mystery. With Watson, the reader knows as much as he does about the mystery. Although he tries hard he, and consequently us, are strides behind Sherlock. This allows for the twists in the story to be surprising to not only the characters but the reader as well.

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