Analysis of the Narrative Techniques in Evely Waugh`s "Decline and Fall"

Seminar Paper, 2001

25 Pages, Grade: 1,3 (A)

Free online reading


1. Introduction

2. Methodical approach

3. The order of the events in Decline and Fall

4. Narrative movements in the novel

5. Elements of frequency in Decline and Fall

6. The narrative mood

7. Summary


1. Introduction

‚(...) in the centre the floor is made of a great disc of polished wood that revolves quickly. At first you sit down and watch the others. They are all trying to sit in the wheel. And they keep getting flung off, (...) Lots of people just enjoy scrambling on and being whisked off and scrambling on again. How they all shriek and giggle! (...) But the whole point about the wheel is that you needn’t get on it at all, if you don’t want to. People get hold of ideas about life, and that makes them think they’ve got to join in the game, even if they don’t enjoy it. It doesn’t suit everyone.‘ (p. 208)

This is part of Otto Silenus’ final speech, the young architect in Decline and Fall who compares life to a ride on the great wheel at Luna Park. This comparison leads, on the one hand, to the characterization of Paul Pennyfeather, one of the central figures of the novel, as a static person, in contrast with Silenus’ nature:

It’s all right for Margot, who can cling on, and for me, at the centre, but you are static. Instead of this absurd division into sexes they ought to class people as static and dynamic. (...) I think we are probably two quite different species spiritually. (p. 209)

On the other hand, the symbol of the wheel could be related to the circularity of the events described in the novel: characters that appear, disappear and reappear in another identity; similar events that occur at different times in different places1 ; and Paul’s returning at the end of the story to Scone College of Oxford University, the place he had been dismissed from for „indecent behaviour“.

In his paper „The Novel in the 1920s“, Bradbury (1970) mentions that the modern period begins with the end of the First World War, „with all the sense of social and psychic shock implied by that“ (p. 185). He refers to some of the typical features of modern English literature as the perception of a fallen world without possessing an order or a structure; a society characterized as an impersonal crowd, in which men are compelled to create and recreate their identities, aspirations, and values; a society where men, dispossessed of former meanings and order, have a sense of living between disaster and disaster. Furthermore, (...) there is in the comic writing of the twenties another voice: that which responds very specifically to the modern as a modern, but then sees its nature and ways as a kind of farcical absurd. The three most important figures here are Wyndham Lewis, Aldous Huxley and Evelyn Waugh (...). What marks their power is not simply their way of grasping at contemporary experience - the experience of an urban, modern gesellschaft society, particularly in its urban bohemian centres - though they do that with remarkable success; but in their mode of authorial displacement, their sense of the contingent nature of contemporary action, their sense of a lost logic running through society and history. In all this they begin to move beyond the ‘classical’ element in modernism (...) towards an acceptance of the world beyond reason and control, a world of what Waugh calls ‘galvanized and translated reality’. So in all of them there is a sense of an historical lesion, a lapse in human order, a ‘gap in the continuity of consciuosness,’ (...) (p. 209)

And thus, as the novel opens, we have the character of Paul Pennyfeather confronted with this fallen world and experiencing disaster after disaster. The next day Paul’s trousers are removed forcibly by the drunken members of the Bollinger Club in Oxford, he is unfairly sent down for „indecent behaviour“. Afterwards, dispossessed from his inheritance by his guardian, he becomes an underpaid school master at Llanabba Castle, a public school run by Augustus Fagan. There he meets Philbrick and his fellow masters Captain Grimes, and Mr. Prendergast, among other characters. He falls in love with Margot Beste-Chetwynde, the mother of one of his students, Peter Beste-Chetwynde, and an international white slave trader. Innocently involved in Margot’s entreprise, Paul is arrested the same day of his wedding and sentenced to seven years prison. During his stay at Blackstone and Egdon Heath Penal Settlement, Paul encounters Philbrick, Grimes and Prendergast again. Margot arranges to have him removed from prison to a private hospital also run by Augustus Fagan; there he will seemingly be operated on an appendicitis. Through a fake death certificate Paul escapes to Margot’s house in Corfu, where he reflects on his future. Finally, „some months later“, he decides to return to Scone College.

Though possessing a different nature than Paul Pennyfeather, Mr. Prendergast and Captain Grimes could also represent this sense of living between disaster and disaster. Mr. Prendergast loses his religious faith when his „Doubts“ begin and he can’t understand „why God had made the world at all“ (p.33). After discovering the figure of a „Modern Churchman“, which in the novel is defined as a person „who draws the full salary of a beneficed clergyman and need not commit himself to any religious belief“ (p. 141), he resigns his post at Llanabba and becomes a Chaplain at Blackstone prison, where he encounters Paul again. There he is murdered by a lunatic convict who considers himself as „the Lion of the Lord’s Elect“. Captain Grimes, on the other hand, is not murdered but always in trouble. As Paul recalls later in the story: „[s]entenced to death in Flanders, he popped up in Wales; drowned in Wales, he emerged in South America; engulfed in the dark mystery of Egdon Mire, he would rise again somewhere at some time (...)“ (p. 199).

The idea of a fallen world is also portrayed in the novel through the institutions and some of the characters Paul Pennyfeather encounters during the course of events. According to Crabbe (1988), „not only are the public institutions of education and religion ineffectual against the disintegration of modern society, the family as an institution seems helpless as well.“ (p. 30) Lord Tangent, one of the student s at Llanabba, is considered by his mother, Lady Circumference, as „a dunderhead“; and Captain Grimes regards marriage as a card to be played when he is „in the soup“. Moreover, there are some other institutions that equally fail in the novel:

Medicine does not save Tangent, whose heel was merely „grazed“ by Prendergast’s bullet. At the end of the novel, Paul is taken to Fagan’s sanatorium not to be cured but to have his death faked so that he can escape from prison. Similarly, the criminal justice system, which regards Paul as the corrupter of Margot and is itself presented as corrupt (in the behavior of the prison guards) and lunatic (in the behavior of the warden) clearly provides no protection for the innocent abroad in the land. (Crabbe 1988, p. 31)2

Another aspect Decline and Fall deals with is that of some characters often changing their identities. Philbrick, probably the best example in the novel, is first introduced as the butler at Llanabba School. But he is also said to be a Russian prince in exile, the proprietor of a circus or Sir Solomon Philbrick, the shipowner, the retired burglar, the novelist, and the managing director of a cinema company who wishes to buy Llanabba Castle, before being presented as the governor’s brother: Sir Solomon Lucas-Dockery; and finally, as Arnold Bennet. Margot Beste-Chetwynde becomes Margot Maltravers and then Margot Metroland, while her son receives the title Earl Pastmaster. Augustus Fagan is presented at the beginning of the novel as Dr Fagan ‘Esq., Ph.D.’ and then as the owner of a private hospital: ‘Augustus Fagan, M.D., Proprietor’. As for Paul, he returns to Scone College under a new identity, that of his own cousin, and „wearing a commoner’s gown and a heavy cavalry moustache. This and his natural diffidence formed a complete disguise. Nobody recognized him.“ (p.210)

Regarding this topic of identity and values, Lane Patey (1998) affirms that characters in Decline and Fall „shift identities because they lack the tools with which to achieve any coherent, stable self“ (p. 56). Murray Davis (1989) sees Waugh’s characters portrayed by means of stereotype and caricature: „in Waugh’s practice, caricature involves the reduction of personality to near-abtraction, then presentation by means of a few qualifying characteristics that give the figure the only individuality it has“ (p. 55); characters are in search of new characteristics with which they can construct an identity. Stopp (1958) describes Fagan as „the impostor, Philbrick the impersonator, Grimes the life-force, Prendergast the personification of fundamental doubt, and finally, Lucas-Dockery, the personification of that even more corroding element, fundamental rational optimism.“ (p. 66)3

Yet these ideas about the circularity of events in Decline and Fall, a fallen world and its institutions, and characters left at every moment to reinvent themselves,4 are presented in the novel through different narrative techniques.

2. Methodical approach

In his book Narrative Discourse. An Essay in Method, Genette (1980) proposes a method of analysis that deals with the relationships between the narrative and the story it tells. The author takes into consideration the temporal categories of order, i.e. the succession of events in the story and their arrangement in the narrative; duration: connections between the variable length of the events in the story and in the narrative; and frequency, that is, „relations between the repetitive capacities of the story and those of the narrative“ (p. 35). Further categories mentioned by the author are those of mood, related to elements of distance and perspective in the narrative, and voice: the relationship between the events and the narrative instance.

When studying the temporal categories of order, duration, and frequency, Genette (1980) emphasizes the opposition between the story time (erzählte Zeit) and narrative time (Erzählzeit), also defined as pseudo-time. In the category of order, the arrangement of the events in the narrative discourse is compared with the succession of the same events in the story. The author introduces the term of anachrony w hen there is a discordance between the two temporal orders of story and narrative, designating as prolepsis any narrative maneuver that consists of narrating and evoking in advance an event that will take place later, designating as analepsis any evocation after the fact of an event that took place earlier than the point in the story where we are at any given moment (...). (p. 40)

Every analepsis and prolepsis constitutes a temporally second narrative with respect to the narrative into which it is inserted (first narrative). An anachrony can reach into the past or future more or less far from the first narrative; it could also have an extent that is more or less long. Analepses whose extent remains external to that of the first narrative are called external analepses, and those within the extent of the first narrative are called internal analepses. Mixed analepses can reach a point earlier and arrive at a point later than the beginning of the first narrative. Internal analepses are further subdivided into heterodiegetic: with a diegetic content different from the content of the first narrative; and homodiegetic: those that deal with the same line of action as the first narrative. Homodiegetic analepses could also be completing, if they fill in an earlier gap in the narrative. This classification applies likewise to the prolepses. (Genette 1980, pp. 48-79)

The category of duration is related to the idea of narrative speed, i.e. the relationship between the duration of the story and the length of the text. It includes four narrative movements: summary, descriptive pause, ellipsis and scene. The summary originates from the narration in a few paragraphs or a few pages of several days, months, or years of the story, with few details of action or speech - it increases the narrative speed. The descriptive pause contributes to slowing down the narrative. The analysis of ellipses comes down to considering the story time elided. From a temporal point of view, ellipses such as „two years later“ are said to be definite, and those like „some/many years later“indefinite; from a formal point of view, explicit ellipses arise from the indication (definite or indefinite) of the lapse of time elided, and implicit ellipses are inferred from some chronological gap in narrative continuity. Finally, a certain parallel between the story and narrative time characterizes the narrative movement of the scene (Genette 1980, pp. 86-112).

The relations of frequency between the narrative and the diegesis are further classified into three types: 1) singulative narrative, narrating once/ n times what happened once/ n times; 2) iterative narrative, narrating once what happened n times; and 3) repeating narrative, narrating n times what happened once (Genette 1980, pp. 113-117). Moreover, the author talks about a „Game with Time“ when considering these temporal categories: analepses that can take the form of summary, descriptions that can be related to the iterative narrative, and summaries which can be associated with the iterative narrative as well. „So we can characterize the temporal stance of a narrative only by considering at the same time all the relationships it establishes between its own temporality and that of the story it tells.“ (p. 155)

To describe the category of mood, Genette (1980) takes into consideration the modalities of distance and perspective through which the narrative information is regulated. Elements of distance can be studied in the narrative of events and narrative of words. The former refers to the „transcription of the (supposed) non-verbal into the verbal“ (p. 165). In the latter, the narrative keeps a lesser distance from what it tells; the narrator can give the floor to one of the characters, and thus present his/ her words in direct style. On the other hand, the narrator can tell the words uttered by one of the characters and consequently present them in indirect style. Another way of introducing the character’s words is through free indirect style, in which the narrator can take on the speech of the character. Furthermore, the interior monologue, i.e. narrative of thoughts, can also be presented in either direct, indirect, or free indirect style.

The second mode of regulating information, the narrative perspective, arises from presenting information through a specific point of view or focalization. In this respect, Genette (1980) mentions a nonfocalized narrative, also known as a narrative with zero focalization, in which the narrator says more than any of the characters know; a narrative with internal focalization, when the narrator says only what a given character knows; and a narrative with external focalization, if the narrator says less than the character knows (pp. 185-190).

Finally, the category of voice refers to the time of the narrating, in which Genette (1980) differentiates between four types of narrative from a temporal point of view: subsequent, prior, simultaneous and interpolated. This category also includes elements related to the narrative level and the person.

For the purpose and the length of this paper, only the temporal categories of order, duration, an frequency, as well as the category of mood will be taken into consideration in the analysis of the novel.

3. The order of the event s in Decline and Fall

The events that constitute the story time in Decline and Fall begin during Paul Pennyfeather’s „third year of uneventful residence at Scone“ (p. 11) with the Bollinger’s Club annual dinner, after which he is dismissed from college. Events continue in the story with Paul working at Llanabba Castle as a school master, then living at King’s Thursday with Margot Beste-Chetwynde, getting arrested when he is about to marry her, being in prison for a while, and then returning to Oxford under a new identity, until his „third year of uneventful residence at Scone“ (p. 213). The novel structures events in a prelude, three different parts and an epilogue. Temporal indicators such as „next day“, „six days later“, „some weeks later“ also provide a notion of the chronology of these events in the story time.

Yet „one of the traditional resources of literary narration“ (Genette 1980, p. 36), i.e. analepses and prolepses, also characterizes the arrangement of events in the narrative discourse of Decline and Fall. Retrospections in the novel are introduced in the forms of both external and internal analepsis. Some examples of external analepses are those that at the beginning of the novel describe a similar event of the Bollinger Club which took place three years before, when „a fox had been brought in in a cage and stoned to death with champagne bottles“ (p. 9), and give information about the origins of Llanabba House becoming Llanabba Castle „after a great deal of work had been done very cheaply“ (p. 20). Through Dr Fagan’s words, other antecedents of Llanabba School and his opinion about the Welsh people are also narrated:

During the fourteen years that I have been at Llanabba there have been six sports days and two concerts, all of them, in one way or another, utterly disastrous. (...) another time some quite unimportant parents brought a dog with them which bit two of the boys very severely and one of the masters, who swore terribly in front of everyone. (...) From the earliest times the Welsh have been looked upon as an unclean people. (...) we can trace almost all the disasters of English history to the influence of Wales. (pp.61, 65-66)

Some background information about Margot Beste-Chetwynde’s King’s Thursday is also given through an external ana lepsis, whose extent is one of the longest in the novel:

It (...) stood on the place which since the reign of Bloody Mary had been the seat of the Earls of Pastmaster. For three centuries the poverty and inertia of this noble family had preserved its home unmodified by any of the succeding fashions that fell upon domestic architecture. No wing had been added, no window filled in (...). It was impossible to ring the Pastmasters up, but they were always at home and unaffectedly delighted to see their neighbours, and after tea Lord Pastmaster would lead the newcomers on a tour round the house, (...). But the time came when King’s Thursday had to be sold. It had been built in an age when twenty servants were not an unduly extravagant establishment, and it was scarcely possible to live there with fever. (...) With rather less reluctance than might have been expected, Lord Pastmaster made up his mind to sell the house; (...) King’s Thursday had been empty for two years when Margot Beste-Chetwynde bought it. (...) the neighbours, who as the work of demolition proceeded, with the aid of all that was most pulverizing in modern machinery, became increasingly enraged, and in their eagerness to preserve for the county a little of the great manor, even resorted to predatory expeditions, from which they would return with lumps of carved stonework for their rock gardens (...) The panelling went to South Kensington, where it has come in for a great deal of admiration from the Indian students. Within nine months of Mrs Beste-Chetwynde’s taking possession the new architect was at work with his plans. (pp. 115-119)

Another group of external analepses provides the reader with antecedents of some of the characters. Through Captain Grimes’ own words we know that his trouble had been „temperament and sex“ (p.28). After his housemaster, a public-school man, dismissed him at the age of sixteen, he went into business in a brush factory. Later the captain relates the following about war time:

I don’t suppose I was really sober for more than a few hours for the whole of that war. Then I got into the soup again, pretty badly that time. Happened over in France. They said, „Now, Grimes, you’ve got to behave like a gentleman. We don’t want a court martial in this regiment. We’re going to leave you alone for half an hour. There’s your revolver. You know what to do. (...) Well, I sat there for some time looking at that revolver. I put it up to my head twice, but each time I brought it down again. (...) And next day I was sent to Ireland on a pretty cushy job connected with postal service. (...) You can’t get into the soup in Ireland, do what you like. (pp. 29-30)5

In a dialogue with Paul, Mr Prendergast, who was a clergyman of the Church of England ten years before, tells him about the time whe n his „Doubts“ began. He had asked his bishop, but „he didn’t know. He said that he didn’t think the point really arose as far as [his] practical duties as a parish priest were concerned. (...) [His mother] never really recovered from the shock, poor old ady.“ (p. 33) According to Dr Fagan, it is believed that Margot Beste- Chetwynde had poisoned her husband. „It never came into court, but there was a great deal of talk about it at the time.“ (p. 50) Philbrick talks to Paul about his past life when his father used to knock his mother about something awful and Philbrick participated in a diamond robbery: „I was with him [Toby Cruttwell] in the Steel Trust and the Buller diamonds, and we cleared a nice little profit. (...) Just before the war we split.“ (pp. 53-54); Philbrick was involved in kidnapping activities as well. Through Prendergast and Grimes’ words we know a different story he had told them about his past life. According to Predendergast Philbrick was a shipowner who had shot a Portuguese Count dead; to Grimes he said he was a writer who wasn’t worried about his sister and let her die without giving her any money. Finally, also in the form of an external analepsis, some kind of background information is given about the character of Sir Wilfred Lucas-Dockery, who „had not been intended by nature or education for the Governor of a prison“ (p. 165). His predecessor had given him the following piece of advice: „[g]ive the hell to the man immediately below you, and you can rely on him to pass it on with interest. If you make a prison bad enough, people’ll take jolly good care to keep out of it.“ (p. 167)

What all these external analepses have in common is that the events they relate give us the same idea of a fallen and unstructured world as in the events within the story time. Lane Patey (1998) talks about Waugh’s characteristic understanding of historical change „as a process running not from good to bad, but from already bad to worse“ (p. 59), where everything after the First World War is a degradation from its already decayed antecedent. And thus, as the previous examples show, Llanabba Castle is built during the time of the cotton famine in the sixties with very cheaply paid work, and afterwards becomes a school of a low category, where disastrous events are also organized. King’s Thursday, previously in a decayed state due to the poverty and inertia of the Earls of Pastmaster during three centuries, is now rebuilt as ‘something clean and square’ using ferro-concrete and aluminium, and eliminating „the human element from the consideration of form“ (p. 120). Along with the events regarding the Bollinger Club three years before, as well as the background information about the Welsh people, and the transformation of King’s Thursday, Captain Grimes, Mr Prendergast, Philbrick, Margot Beste-Chetwynde and Sir Lucas-Dockery illustrate in the same way the state of degradation that preceeds the events of the story time.

Though to a lesser degree than the external analepses, both heterodiegetic and homodiegetic interna l analepses also characterize the retrospective narrative in Decline and Fall. Most of the homodiegetic internal analepsis in the novel have a completing function, and thus fill in some omissions in the previous narrative: Paul reflects that the last week had not been as awful as he had expected. „It was tacitly agreed that when Paul wished to read or to write letters he was allowed to do so undisturbed (...)“ (p.41); in a dialogue between Dr Fagan and his daughters, some other aspects of the Annual School Sports are related after they have taken place in the story; and some days after marrying Dr Fagan’s daughter, Florence, Grimes tells Paul and Prendergast what his marriage has been like.

The dialogue between Peter Beste-Chetwynde, now Peter Pastmaster, and Paul at the end of the novel can illustrate an example of homodiegetic internal analepsis with a repeating function, when Peter recalls some events that happened since he met Paul for the first time:

‘Funny how things happen. You used to teach me the organ; d’you remember?’ ‘Yes, I remeber,’ said Paul.

‘And then Margot Metroland wanted to marry you; d’you remember?’ ‘Yes,’ said Paul.

‘And then you went to prison, and Alaistair - that’s Margot Metroland’s young man - and Metroland

- that’s her husband - got you out; d’you remember?’ (p. 215)

Moreover, some information about Grimes and Prendergast, who have been out of sight for some time and whose recent past the reader must catch up with, is related in the form of heterodiegetic internal analepses through their own words. After his disappearance from Llanabba Castle, Grimes reappears again at King’s Thursday and tells Paul and Peter what has happened in the meantime: „[a]fter I left Llanabba I was rather at a loose end. I’d borrowed a fiver from Philbrick just before he left, and that got me to London, (...)“ (p. 139). He then continues saying how he just got a job from Margot at „a place of entertainment. Sort of night club, you know“ (p. 140) in South America. Later in the story, Paul meets Grimes again at Egdon Heath Prison. He tells Paul: „I was arrested as soon as I landed. You see, Mrs Grimes turned up at the shop, so off Grimes went.“ (p. 189) After Prendergast resigns his post at Llanabba School, he reappears again at Blackstone prison, there he encounters Paul and tells him what has happened meanwhile: „I’ve only been at the job a week. (...) My bishop said he thought there was more opening for a Modern Churchman in this kind of work than in the parishes.“ (p. 165)

As for the type of anachronies called prolepses, they are much less frequent than the analepses in Decline and Fall. At the beginning of the novel, during the narration of the events related to the Bollinger Club, one of these anticipations occurs: „Little suspecting the incalculable consequences that the evening was to have for him, he [Paul] bicycled happily back from a meeting of the League of Nations Union.“ (p. 12) The disappearance of Captain Grimes from Llanaba School is also to a certain extent anticipated in the narrative: „But Captain Grimes’s holiday came sooner than Mr Prendergast expected, and in a way which few people could have forseen.“ (p. 113) The „disappearance“ of Paul Pennyfeather is also anticipated in the novel through the narrator’s comment:

In fact, the whole of this book is really an account of the mysterious disappearance of Paul Pennyfeather, so that readers must not complain if the shadow which took his name does not amply fill the important part of hero for which he was originally cast. (...) Paul’s second disappearance is necessary, because, (...) Paul Pennyfeather would never have made a hero (...). (pp. 122-123)

They are examples of internal homodiegetic prolepses, since they deal with the same line of action as the first narrative in which they are introduced. What makes this type of anachronies different from the analepses is that they emphasize the figure of an omniscient narrator, a narrator who knows more than any of the characters and whose allusions to the future create to some extent a kind of suspense or a reflexive environment in the narrative. However, in some of the dialogues the characters’ words can make allusions to events that will happen in the future within the story time and could also be considered indirectly as prolepses. When leaving Scone College, the porter tells Paul: „I expect you’ll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir“ (p. 14); Dr Fagan considers the Welsh people an interesting case of study, he then adds: „I have often considered writing a little monograph on the subject, but I was afraid it might make me unpopular in the village“ (p. 65). At the end of the story Paul finds and buys a best-seller called „Mother Wales“ by Augustus Fagan in a bookshop; in a letter addressed to Paul, Dr Fagan mentions her daughter’s intention of starting a nursing home. Both could be considered to foreshadow events that happen almost at the end of the story, when Paul is removed from prison to be operated on at Fagan’s nursing home. Finally, Lord Tangent’s words „Am I going to die?“ (p. 71) could also allude to his death later in the story.

4. Narrative movements in the novel

As already mentioned above, the category of duration is related to elements of narrative speed. Genette (1980) refers to the term anisochronies when talking about accelerations or slowdowns in the narrative: an „isochronous narrative, our hypothetical reference zero, would thus be here a narrative with unchanging speed, (...) such a narrative does not exist“ (p. 88). These anisochronies, or effects of rhythm in the narrative, are determined by the four narrative movements called scene, descriptive pause, summary and ellipsis.

Dialogues in Decline and Fall constitute a great extent of its narrative. They are part of the narrative movement of scene and represent a kind of conventional equality between the story and narrative time.6 However, some of the dialogues in the novel could have two different temporalities, the one of the dialogue itself, and the time the words in the dialogue refer to. That is the case of the analepses which are presented through a character’s words. Grimes’ conversation with Prendergast and Paul about the story Philbrick had told him can be an illustrative example of this:

Mr Philbrick, senior, (...) had two kids: Philbrick and a daughter called Gracie. From the start Philbrick was the apple of the old chap’s eye, while he couldn’t stick Miss Gracie at any price. (...) She lived with the servants like Cinderella, Philbrick said, while he, sensible little beggar, had the best of everything and quoted classics and flowery language to the old boy upstairs. After he left Cambridge he settled down in London and wrote away like blazes. (p. 92)

Furthermore, the descriptions of Llanabba Castle and King’s Thursday in the novel illustrate a slowdown in the narrative, whic h is characteristic of the descriptive pause, and present to some extent the same idea of decay that was referred to in the previous examples of external analepses. King’s Thursday is a „new-born monster to whose birth ageless and forgotten cultures had been in travail“ (p. 136); and it is „the house of false order (...) [and] perverted doctrine, and perpetual ‘renovation’ is its inevitable destiny“ ( Heath 1982, p. 69). Another example which conveys this idea of decay is the description of the hotel where Grimes, Prendergast, and Paul celebrate before Grimes gets married:

The Hotel Metropole, Cympryddyg, is by far the grandest hotel in the north of Wales. (...) It was built in the ample days preceding the war, with a lavish expenditure on looking-glass and marble. To-day it shows signs of wear (...). There are cracks in the cement on the main terrace, the winter garden is draughty, and one comes disconcertingly upon derelict bathchairs in the Moorish Court. Besides this, none of the fountains ever play (...). (p. 98)

Yet a series of descriptions in the novel are presented through the perspective of Paul Pennyfeather, who thus serves as a focalizer. During the interview with Dr Fagan, „Paul eyed him shyly across the table. He was very tall and very old and very well dressed; he had sunken eyes and rather long white hair over jet black eyebrows“ (p. 18). In the Common Room at Llanabba Castle „Paul looked round. (...) Two gowns hung on a hook behind the door. In a corner were some golf clubs, a walking stick, an umbrella and two miniature rifles (...)“ (p. 21). After talking to Sir Lucas-Dockery at Blackstone prison,

Paul was once more locked in, and for the first time had the opportunity of examining his cell. There was little to interest him. Besides his Bible (...) there was a litte glazed pint pot, a knife and spoon, a slate and slate-pencil, a salt-jar, a metal water-can, two earthenware vessels, some cleaning materials, a plank bed upright against the wall, a roll of bedding, a stool, and a table. (pp. 168-169)

These examples illustrate not a pause but a parallel between the story and the narrative time as time passes while Paul is observing what is being described in the narrative. For that reason, they are rather related to the narrative movement of scene than to the descriptive pause. On the contrary, other descriptions in the novel, like those that refer to the Welsh people or to Egdon Penal Settlement, are not connected to a particular moment in the story but to a series of analogous moments, and consequently accelerate the narrative pace. Paul’s feelings about Margot are thus described in this way:

In the whole of Paul’s life no one had ever been quite so sweet to him as Margot Beste-Chetwynde was during the next few days. (...) in and out of the rooms, and along the labyrinthine corridors of the great house he moved in a golden mist. Each morning as he dressed a bird seemed to be singing in his heart, and as he lay down to sleep he would pillow his head against a hand about which still hung a delicate fragance of Margot Beste-Chetwynde’s almost unprocurable scent. (p. 134)

This acceleration in the narrative pace also characterizes the narrative movement of summary. It takes a more significant place in the second part of the novel and onwards. At King’s Thursday Margot talked to Paul about „some jewels she was having reset, (...) and how the wiring of her London house was being overhauled because of the fear of fire; (...) and how Bobby Pastmaster was trying to borrow money from her again (...)“ (p.135). During the wedding preparations Paul received many letters and invitations from people he barely remembered meeting (...). But Margot remained loyal to all her old obligations, and invitations to her wedding-reception were accepted by whole bevies of young men (...). Ten days before the wedding Paul moved into rooms at the Ritz, and Margot devoted herself seriously to shopping. Five or six times a day messengers appeared at his suite bringing little by- products of her activity - now a platinum cigarette-case, now a dressing-gown, now a tie-pin or a pair of links - while Paul, with unaccustomed prodigality, bought two new ties, three pairs of shoes, an umbrella, and a set of Proust. Margot had fixed his personal allowance at two thousand a year. (pp. 148-150)

After being arrested at the Ritz, Paul’s trial took place some weeks later. This and „the announcement at St Margaret’s that the wedding was postponed, Margot’s fly to Corfu, the refusal of bail, the meals sent in to Paul on covered dishes from Boulestin’s, had been ‘front- page stories’ everyday“ (p. 159). Afterwards „Paul was sent off to prison, (...) and there, as far as the public were concerned, the matter ended.“ (p.160) After Prendergast’s death, Paul is removed to Egdon Heath prison. „In his six weeks of solitude and grave consideration he had failed to make up his mind about Margot Beste-Chetwynde“ (p.187). Some months later

Paul returned to Scone College after the absence of little more than a year. His death, though depriving him of his certificates, left him his knowledge. He sat successfully for smalls and Matriculation and entered his old college once more, wearing a commoner’s gown and a heavy cavalry moustache. (...) After much doubt and deliberation he retained the name of Pennyfeather, explaining to the Chaplain that he had, he believed, had a distant cousin at Scone a short time ago. (p. 209-210)

Ellipses imply the highest degree of narrative speed. Both definite and indefinite are present in the narrative of Decline and Fall, as the following examples show. „Later in the day Paul suggested the plan to Mr Prendergast“ (p. 46); „[s]ome days later Paul entered on another phase of his reclamation“ (p. 176). Yet in the ellipses of the second and third part of the novel, the period of story time ellided is to some extent longer than in the ellipses of the first part: „(...)one afternoon a few days later, Paul met a short man with a long red beard (...)“ (p. 138); „Paul’s trial, which took place some weeks later (...)“ (p. 159); „[t]hree weeks later Paul sat on the veranda of Margot’s villa, (...)“ (p. 205); „[o]ne day at the beginning of his second year, as Paul and Stubbs were bicycling (...)“ (p. 212). The ellision of longer periods of time accelerates the narrative pace even more, and this seems to be in direct relationship with the stronger presence of summary in the second and third parts of the novel as well.

From a formal point of view, the previous examples illustrate the type of explicit ellipses, definite or indefinite. The second type of ellipses, the implicit ones, are inferred in the novel from gaps in the narrative of events related to some of the characters.

During the celebration of the sports events at Llanabba School, Tangent was wounded in the foot by Mr Prendergast’s bullet at the beginning of the race; later in the narrative we know through Peter’s words that „Tangent’s foot has swollen up and turned black“ (p. 94) and through the narrator that at Grimes’ wedding everybody was there „except little Lord Tangent, whose foot was being amputated at a local nursing-home“ (p. 105). In the second part of the novel, within the chapter related to Paul’s wedding preparations, we know about Tangent’s death through his mother’s own words: „‘It’s madennin’ Tangent having died just at this time,’ she said. ‘People may think that that’s my reason for refusin’. I can’t imagine that anyone will go.’“ (p. 149) Afterwards, we again learn about his death through Peter’s words.

Another example of implicit ellipses is Philbrick’s disappearance in the first part of the novel, after which nothing else is said about this character until his reappearance at Blackstone prison when „[h]is prison clothes were ill- fitting, and his chin was unshaven, but he still wore an indefinable air of the grand manner“ (p. 162). His next appearance is not until Paul meets him by chance in „an open Rolls-Royce that swung out of Oriel Street at a dangerous speed“ (p. 212).

All these examples illustrate the alternation of the narrative movements of scene, descriptive pause, summary and ellipsis, with a predominance of scenes in the whole novel and an increasing number of summaries within the second and third parts of it. The increase of the narrative speed through summaries and ellipses in these two parts of Decline and Fall could be related in a certain way to the metaphor of the great wheel at Luna Park in Silenus’ speech at the end of the novel: people try to sit in the wheel, whose floor in the centre „is made of a great disc of polished wood that revolves quickly (...), and they keep getting flung off“ (p. 208). He then continues talking to Paul about (...) the scrambling and excitement and bumps and the effort to get to the middle, and when we do get to the middle, it’s just as if we never started. (...) Now you are a person who was clearly meant to stay in the seats and sit still and if you get bored watch the others. Somehow you got on to the wheel, and you got thrown off again at once with a hard bump (p. 209).

And thus when Paul is sent down from Scone College and goes to Llanabba School could be seen as the moment he gets onto the wheel of life and approaches this great disc that revolves quickly. Confronted with a chaotic and unpredictable world around him, events in the narrative time start to happen faster after the school sports. There he meets Margot Beste- Chetwynde for the first time, falls in love with her, goes to King’s Thursday, gets involved in Margot’s illegal business, and then gets „thrown off again with a hard bump“ when he is sent to jail and returns at the end of the story to Scone in Oxford under his new identity. The speed in the narrative of these events is illustrated through the previous examples of summaries and ellipses. His getting onto the wheel of life can also be related to the circularity of events in the novel, as mentioned above, and also illustrates to some extent the inner development of this character during all his experiences. These two aspects are analysed in further detail in the following sections on frequency and mood.

5. Elements of frequency in Decline and Fall

Genette (1980) defines the narrative frequency as the relation of repetition between the narrative and the diegesis, in which it comprises the singulative, iterative, and repeating narrative. For the analysis of this category in the novel, the types of iterative narrative will be taken into consideration, where a single narrative utterance refers to several analogous events; and repeating narrative, in which the recurrence of the statements do not correspond to the recurrence of events.

On the one hand, the iterative in Decline and Fall takes the form of analepses, which at the same time are related to the narrative movement of summary. The previous examples that refer to the origins of Llanabba Castle and King’s Thursday, and those related to the characters of Grimes, Prendergast or Paul illustrate this aspect:

Paul Pennyfeather (...) had come there after a creditable career at a small public school of ecclesiastical temper on the South Downs, where he had edited the magazine, been President of the Debating Society (...). At home he lived in Oslow Square with his guardian, a prosperous solicitor who was proud of his progress and abysmally bored by his company. (p. 11)

On the other hand, there is a close connection of the iterative with the descriptions in the novel that refer to a series of analogous moments.7 nde and catch a morning train to King’s Thursday, and there his extraordinary adventures began anew. From the point of view of this story Paul’s second disappearance is necessary, because, as the reader will probably have discerned already, Paul Pennyfeather would never have made a hero, and the only interest about him rises from the unusual series of events of which his shadow was witness. (p. 123)

In the moment Paul’s trial is narrated it is mentioned that: „[b]efore this happened, however, a conversation took place which deserves the attention of all interested in the confused series of events of which Paul had become a part“ (p. 160). And when he was about to be removed from Egdon Heath, „Paul emerged from his cell, looking for all the world like a normal civilized man, such as you might see daily in any tube-railway“ (p. 200). In each case, the narrator introduces his own interpretation of the events and makes the reader aware of some inner aspects of one of the central figures of Decline and Fall at different times in the story. Paul Pennyfeather becomes a shadow of himself, his previous system of belief and code of behaviour go inadequate after all these disastrous events he experiences; it is in his meeting with Potts when this system of belief is reactivated and, as the narrator mentions, he becomes a real person again for an evening.

In contrast with other characters in the novel, Paul is the only one whose psychological inside 8. The narration of similar events in one single utterance also increases the narrative speed in the novel, and from there its close connection with the image of the great wheel as well.

As for the repeating narrative in the novel, we could talk about two types: discoursive and aspectual repetitions.9 The former is related to the presentation of different events in the story time under similar words or expressions, and the repetition of certain expressions during the narration. The latter refers to events which are narrated more than once, each time under a different perspective. Some of the discoursive repetitions could have the function of intensifying the aspect that is repeated in the novel. After Paul is dismissed from Scone College, the expression „sent down for indecent behaviour“ is reiterated at different times during the narration:

‘ (...) I expect you’ll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That’s what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behaviour.’ (...) ‘Sent down for indecent behaviour, eh?’ said Paul Pennyfeather’s guardian. (...) ‘Sent down for indecent behaviour, eh?’ said Mr Levy, of Church and Gargoyle, scholastic agents. (...) This was the question that Paul had been dreading, and, true to his training, he had resolved upon honesty. ‘I was sent down, sir, for indecent behaviour.’ (pp. 14-18)

The fact that Mr Prendergast wears a wig is also mentioned on several occasions. One of the boys at Llanabba School mentions for the first time in the story that „Mr Prendergast wears a wig“ (p. 26); Grimes says about Prendergast that „(...) he can’t keep order. Of course, you know he wears a wig. Very hard for a man with a wig to keep order“ (p. 27); afterwards, Mr Prendergast’s own words refer to it as well: „I find all boys utterly intractable. I don’t know why it is. Of course my wig has a lot to do with it. Have you noticed that I wear a wig?“ (pp. 38-39); and finally, as Prendergast was working at Blackstone, one of the prisoners tells Paul: „[y]ou doesn’t know where you are these days. This blinking prison is going to the dogs. Look at the Chaplain. Wears a wig!“ (p. 175).

What could be emphasized or intensified in both examples is the world of unreason in which the characters find themselves. In the case of Paul, the imputation of an unreal guilt, which leads him to take the job at Llanabba School and leave Scone College. Paradoxically, the imputation of a second unreal guilt, being a white slave trader and condemned to prison, drives him at the end of the story back to Scone College. Regarding Mr Prendergast, the wig could be considered a symbol of his wrong faith, of his „Doubts“ about God, and probably a sign of his fatal destiny, as he is murdered by one of the prisoners at Blackstone. The pessimistic nature of this character during the story could also represent an anticipation of his destiny. This is indicated in the narrative through expressions that are formulated in a similar way:

Oh dear! oh dear!I can see that things are going to be very difficult. (...) Oh dear! oh dear! If it wasn’t for my pipes, I don’t know how I should manage to keep on. (...) Oh dear! oh dear! How wet I’m getting. I should have got my boots mended if I’d known this was going to happen. (...) Oh dear! oh dear! It makes everything still more difficult! (pp. 31, 39, 50, 165)

This type of discoursive repetition can also illustrate some features of a character’s personality. Several characters in the novel who approach Paul consider him a person they can trus t in, and know how he’ll react. After Grimes and Paul meet at Llanabba School, Grimes tells him: „[f]unny thing, but I feel I can trust you. I think we’re going to be pals“ (p. 27); when talking about his „Doubts“, Mr Prendergast tells Paul: „I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, nobody else knows. I somehow feel you’ll understand“ (p. 32); before that he asks Paul „I expect you wonder how I came to be here?“ (p. 31). Similar words are used by Philbrick when talking to Paul as well: „I expect you wonder how it is that I come to be here?“ (p. 51); when Dr Fagan suggests Paul to marry his daughter Florence, and Paul refuses, he says: „I tell you all this, Pennyfeather, because in our brief acquaintance I have learned to trust and respect you. (...) I was afraid that would be your answer“ (pp. 96-97); and in the conversation between Peter and Paul, before Paul’s trial, Peter tells him: „I thought you’d say that, Paul. I’m so glad“ (p. 161). These characteristics of Paul’s personality can also be related to the narrator’s comment of Paul representing the idea of a gentleman, „the solid figure of an intelligent, well-educated, well-conducted young man, (...) whose opinion on a ballet or a critical essay was rather better than most people’s, (...)“ (p. 122). This and some other aspects related to Paul’s psychological inside are later presented in further detail in the following section on narrative mood.

Other examples of discoursive repetition occur in the novel when Paul is in the Ritz. Before he gets arrested, he drinks with Alastair Trumpington and Peter a toast „‘[t]o Fortune,’ he said, ‘a much-maligned lady!’“ (p. 157); later in the story, when the drunken surgeon signs Paul’s death certificate, Dr Fagan says the following: „I think we should drink a toast - to

Fortune, a much- maligned lady“ (p. 205); and almost at the end of the story, when Peter meets Paul again at Scone College, he recalls the moment of the toast at the Ritz:

‘Paul, do you remeber a thing you said once at the Ritz - Alastair was there - that’s Margot’s Metroland’s young man, you know - d’you remember? I was rather tight then too. You said, „Fortune, a much-maligned lady.“ D’you remember that?’

‘Yes,’ said Paul, ‘I remember.’

‘Good old Paul! I knew you would. Let’s drink to that now; shall we? (p. 215)

Peter’s words also allude to other events that happened since he met Paul at Llanabba School, but this time, they are related under Peter’s perspective. They are an example of aspectual repetition, as well as the Chaplain’s words at Scone about Paul Pennyfeather of the beginning of the story: „he used to take off all his clothes and go out and dance in the quad at night. Nice quiet gentleman, too, he was, except for his dancing“ (p. 210).

What most of these examples of discoursive and aspectual repetitions have in common is that they make allusion to the idea of circularity of the events in the novel, which is also related to the metaphor of the great wheel at Luna Park. The toasts occur at different times in the story, but are presented und er similar linguistic devices; Peter’s words summarizes some of the events in the story; and even in the first two examples of discoursive repetition, the fact of Paul being unfairly accused twice, and of some characters telling him at different moments in the story part of their lives, or Prendergast, who can’t keep order either at Llanabba or at Blackstone, alludes to this idea of circular events. At the beginning of Decline and Fall, „Paul was reading for the Church. It was his third year of uneventful residence at Scone“ (p. 11); and its circular structure brings Paul back at the end of the story, in the „Epilogue“, to the position he occupied at the beginning: „[i]t was Paul’s third year of uneventful residence at Scone“ (p. 213).

6. The narrative mood

Elements of distance and perspective constitute the category of narrative mood. Distance can be presented in the novel through the narration of events and words; and perspective refers to the presentation of narrative information through a specific point of view, i.e. through a zero, external or internal focalization.10 The narrative of events conveys a strong presence of the narrator, who can introduce a comment in the narrative. That is the case during the sports events at Llanabba School, when at the beginning of the race little Lord Tangent was wounded: „[c]learly Tangent was not going to win; he was sitting on the grass crying because he had been wounded in the foot by Mr Prendergast’s bullet“ (p. 71); and when Margot Beste-Chetwynde appeared accompanied by a coloured man: „[c]learly the social balance was delicately poised, and the issue depended upon them. With or without her nigger, Mrs Beste-Chetwynde was a woman of vital importance“ (p. 77). Margot’s influence at Egdon Heath Prison is also remarked by the narrator: „[c]learly the library of his new prison was run on a much more enterprising and extravagant plan than at Blackstone“ (p. 190). These examples illustrate a narrator who serves „as a source, guarantor, and organizer of the narrative, as analyst and commentator, as stylist“ (Genette 1980, p. 167).

On other occasions, the narrator’s comments establish a direct interaction with the reader. During Paul’s meeting with his old friend Arthur Potts, before he goes to King’s Thursday, the narrator makes the two following remarks:

For an evening at least the shadow that has flitted about this narrative under the name of Paul Pennyfeather materialized into the solid figure of an intelligent, well-educated, well-conducted young man (...). This was the Paul Pennyfeather who had been developing in the placid years which preceded this story. In fact, the whole of this book is really an account of the mysterious disappearance of Paul Pennyfeather, so that readers must not complain if the shadow which took his name does not amply fill the important part of hero for which he was originally cast. (p. 122)

For an evening Paul became a real person again, but next day he woke up leaving himself disembodied somewhere between Sloane Square and Onslow Square. He had to meet Beste-Chetwynde and catch a morning train to King’s Thursday, and there his extraordinary adventures began anew. From the point of view of this story Paul’s second disappearance is necessary, because, as the reader will probably have discerned already, Paul Pennyfeather would never have made a hero, and the only interest about him rises from the unusual series of events of which his shadow was witness. (p. 123)

In the moment Paul’s trial is narrated it is mentioned that: „[b]efore this happened, however, a conversation took place which deserves the attention of all interested in the confused series of events of which Paul had become a part“ (p. 160). And when he was about to be removed from Egdon Heath, „Paul emerged from his cell, looking for all the world like a normal civilized man, such as you might see daily in any tube-railway“ (p. 200). In each case, the narrator introduces his own interpretation of the events and makes the reader aware of some inner aspects of one of the central figures of Decline and Fall at different times in the story. Paul Pennyfeather becomes a shadow of himself, his previous system of belief and code of behaviour go inadequate after all these disastrous events he experiences; it is in his meeting with Potts when this system of belief is reactivated and, as the narrator mentions, he becomes a real person again for an evening.

In contrast with other characters in the novel, Paul is the only one whose psychological inside is presented to some extent in the narrative. His thoughts are narrated according to the situation in direct or indirect style: „‘I wonder whether I’m going to enjoy being a school- master,’ thought Paul“ (p. 22); later in the story, the narrator says that „Paul found himself reflecting that on the whole the last week had not been quite as awful as he had expected“ (p. 41); he then reflects about taking the money that Alastair offered him for all of the problems that occurred to him at Scone College: „‘[i]f I take the money,’ he said to himself, ‘I shall neve r know whether I have acted rightly or not. (...) It is a test-case of the durability of my ideals’“ (p. 44). Before his wedding, „Paul was beginning to feel cosmopolitan, the Ritz to- day, Marseilles to- morrow, Corfu next day (...). How pathetically insula r poor Pott was, he thought, for all his talk of internationalism“ (p. 151). In Marseilles Paul reflected it was no wonder „that Margot had been so anxious to rescue her prótegées from this place of temptation and danger“ (p. 152). At Blackstone prison, „[t]he loss of his personal possessions gave him a curiously agreeable sense of irresponsibility“ (p. 162-163), after which it is narrated that for the first time „he had been really alone for months. How very refreshing it was, he reflected“ (p. 169).

On several occasions, Paul’s thoughts are presented in free indirect style, and thus there is practically no distinction between the figures of the narrator and the character of Paul, since his thoughts are presented through the voice of the former, and the two instances are then merged.11 After his conversation with Silenus at King’s Thursday, Paul’s interior monologue, which refers to his feelings for Margot, is related in this way: „[s]o Margot Beste-Chetwynde wanted to marry Otto Silenus, and in another corner of this extraordinary house she lay in a drugged trance, her lovely body cool and fragant and scarcely stirring beneath the bedclothes (...). Quite soon Paul fell asleep“ (p. 127); Paul’s naivety about Margot’s business is also illustrated in an interior monologue: after being invited by a Negro Sailor to have a drink, Paul „hurried on. How typical of Margot that, in all her whirl of luxury, she should still have time to care for the poor girls she had unwittingly exposed to such perils“ (p. 152). During his six weeks of solitude at Egdon Heath prison Paul had failed to make up his mind about Margot Beste-Chetwynde; it was torn and distracted by two conflicting methods of thought. On one side was the dead weight of precept, inherited from generations of schoolmasters and divines. (...) He had ‘done the right thing’ in shielding the woman: so much was clear, but Margot had not quite filled the place assigned to her, for in this case she was grossly culpable, and he was shielding her, not from misfortune nor injustice, but for the consequence of her crimes; (...) he had wrestled with this argument without achieving any satisfactory result except a growing conviction that there was something radically inapplicable about this whole code of ready-made honour that is the still small voice, trained to command, of the Englishman all the world over. (p. 187)

This excerpt from the novel also illustrates the idea already mentioned about Paul’s code of belief and behaviour, which does not correspond to the world he has become a part of. His thoughts are quoted from the figure’s mind in the following way:

On the other hand was the undeniable cogency of Peter Beste-Chetwynde’s ‘You can’t see Mamma in prison, can you?’ The more Paul considered this, the more he perceived it to be the statement of a natural law. He appreciated the assumption of comprehension with which Peter had delivered it. As he studied Margot’s photograph, dubiously transmitted as it was, he was strengthened in his belief that there was, in fact, and should be, one law for her and another for himself, and that the raw little exertions of nineteenth- century Radicals were essentially base and trivial and misdirected. It was not simply that Margot had been very rich or that he had been in love with her. It was that he saw the impossibility of Margot in prison; the bare connexion of vocables associating the ideas was obscene. (pp. 187-188)

All these examples of the narrative of Paul’s thoughts illustrate different stages of the inner development of this character. If at the beginning of the story Paul Pennyfeather is a naive character exposed to the madness and decay of the outer world, he then learns something about this irrational world when he returns to Scone College: „[h]is death, though depriving him of his certificates, left him his knowledge“ (p. 209). In Dr Fagan’s own words: „as for him it is the beginning of a new phase of life“ (p. 204). As he was bicycling with his friend Stubbs and meets Philbrick again, he doesn’t reveal his name but says he is called „Arnold Bennet“, which could be seen as a sign that he is not naive anymore. In the epilogue of the novel, Paul recognizes his different nature when talking to Peter: „We’re different somehow. Don’t quite know how. Don’t think that’s rude, do you Paul? No, I know exactly what you mean. You are dynamic, and I’m static“ (p. 215). This last statement refers to the metaphor of the great wheel at Luna Park as well. According to Murray Davis (1989), when Paul returns to Scone College „he assumes an identity which he could not find in the outer, dynamic world. Paul’s retreat is not so much a rejection of that world, however, as a recognition that it is not for the likes of him.“ (p. 66)

The previous examples of descriptions with Paul as a focalizer and the narrative of his thoughts represent the type of internal focalization; those excerpts that refer to some of the prolepses, as well as the narrator’s comments in the novel can illustrate the type of zero focalization. Yet the rest of the characters in Decline and Fall, in contrast with Paul, are presented without any psychological inside but only through their own spoken words and actions; the narrator knows sometimes less than any of them, and thus introduces the information through an external focalization. During Paul’s trial, the judge thinks that is insolent to mention Margot Beste-Chetwynde’s name, „a lady of beauty, rank, and stainless reputation“ (p. 160); the narrator says that Margot’s business „seemed to consist chiefly of interviewing young wome n for jobs in cabarets and as dancing partners. With some reluctance Margot allowed Paul to be present one morning as she saw a new batch“ (p. 144), though it is never said directly that Margot’s business is in connection with prostitution. Philbrick’s real identity is never revealed in the novel, he says to Grimes, Prendergast, and Paul that the stories he had told them „were untrue. One day you shall know my full story“ (p. 99). At

Blackstone prison, Lucas-Dockery tells Paul: „it is my aim to establish personal contact with each of the men under my care“ (p. 167). Though ironically, prisoners are renamed after letters and numbers, Paul was „D.4.12“ or „Case R“, which reflects anything but personal contact with the prison’s governor; some parts of the story are then narrated through external focalization: „Case R. of the Lucas-Dockery experiments began on the new r é gime that afternoon“ (p. 174).

Characters are thus presented through an external approach, and can be defined by their roles instead of by their psychological insides. However, as shown in the examples above, there is a contradiction between their roles and behaviour, which can also illustrate the irrational world Paul is confronted with after his dismissal from Scone College. As Lane Patey (1998) affirms, characters in Waugh’s novel „seem empty, without psychological depth, because they have no depths to probe; an ‘external’, un-subjective presentation accurately captures their modern selves.“ (p. 57)

7. Summary

Genette’s method for the analysis of the novel illustrates how some of the main topics of Decline and Fall can be presented by different narrative techniques. Through anticipations of the type of external analepsis some kind of background information is given about characters and places in the novel, and at the same time a fallen world is emphasized, a world in a state of decay within which the events of the story occur. In the case of internal analepsis, they are used to fill some narrative gaps, and recall some events already narrated in the story, but from a different perspective. Prolepses are also present in the novel, though to a lesser degree. They help to create to some extent an environment of suspense not only through the narrator but also through the character’s words.

The alternatio n of the four narrative movements of descriptive pause, scene, summary and ellipsis presents accelerations and slowdowns in the narrative. There is a predominance of both scene and summary, and an increase of summaries in the second and third parts of the novel, which, as the examples show, accelerate the narrative speed. This is related to the metaphor of the great wheel at Luna Park to some extent.

The iterative narrative, which can also take the form of analepsis and summary, is also related to the acceleration in the narrative speed. The repeating narrative, either in form of discoursive or aspectual repetition, illustrates the idea of circularity of events in Decline and Fall. In the novel discoursive repetition also emphasizes certain features of Paul’s personality, and, as mentioned above, it intensifies the world of unreason in which the characters find themselves.

In the category of narrative mood, examples related to elements of distance and perspective show, on the one hand, a kind of interaction between the narrator and the reader, in which the inadequacy of Paul Pennyfeather’s beliefs is emphasized. On the other hand, the inner development of Paul is presented through internal focalization and the narrative of his thoughts in contrast with the external approach towards the other characters in the novel.

A further analysis of the novel should also include the category of voice, whose central aspect of analysis is the figure of the narrator. This category comprises temporal elements with respect to the narrating act, which is thus divided into the subsequent narrating parts: in the past tense; prior narrative: generally in the future tense; simultaneous: at the same moment of the action; and interpolated: between the moments of the action.12 Further elements included in the category of voice refer to distinct narrative levels and the figure of a heterodiegetic and homodiegetic narrator (Genette 1980, p. 227ff)

Another interesting point of study would be a comparative analysis of these temporal categories of order, duration and frequency, and the categories of mood and voice in a number of Waugh’s novels, to determine in which different ways and to which purposes some of these narrative techniques are used.


Bradbury, Malcolm (1970). „The Novel in the 1920s“. In: Bernard Bergonzi (ed.). The Twentieth Century. London & New York, pp. 180-221

Crabbe, Katharyn W. (1988). Evelyn Waugh. New York.

Genette, Gérard (1980). Narrative Discourse. An Essay in Method. Ithaca, New York.

Heath, Jeffrey (1982). The Picturesque Prison. Evelyn Waugh and His Writing. London.

Lane Patey, Douglas (1998). The Life of Evelyn Waugh. A Critical Biography. Oxford.

Murray Davis, Robert (1981). Evelyn Waugh. Writer. Norman, Oklahoma.

Murray Davis, Robert (1989). Evelyn Waugh and the Forms of His Time. Washington.

Sánchez-Rey, Alfonso (1991). El Lenguaje Literario de la » Nueva Novela « Hisp á nica. Madrid.

Stopp, Frederick J. (1958). Evelyn Waugh. Portrait of an Artist. London.

Waugh, Evelyn (1928). Decline and Fall. London.


1 See also Crabbe (1988, pp. 31-34)

2 See also Lane Patey (1998, p. 59); Heath (1982, p. 65).

3 For further descriptions of the characters see also Murray Davis (1981); Murray Davis (1989, p. 30ff); Heath (1982, p. 64ff).

4 See Lane Patey (1998, p. 56)

5 For a further analysis of the character of Captain Grimes and the topic of drunkenness see Heath (1982, pp. 63- 79).

6 See Genette (1980, p. 87)

7 See the description of Paul’s fellings on p. 13 above.

8 See p. 7 of this paper.

9 See Sánchez-Rey (1991, pp. 76-84)

10 See p. 7 above

11 See Genette (1980, p. 174)

12 See Genette (1980, p. 217)

24 of 25 pages


Analysis of the Narrative Techniques in Evely Waugh`s "Decline and Fall"
University of Freiburg
PS English Novels for the 1920s
1,3 (A)
Catalog Number
File size
402 KB
Analysis, Narrative, Techniques, Evely, Waugh`s, Decline, Fall, English, Novels
Quote paper
Gabriel Dorta Méndez (Author), 2001, Analysis of the Narrative Techniques in Evely Waugh`s "Decline and Fall", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Analysis of the Narrative Techniques in Evely Waugh`s "Decline and Fall"

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free