The effectiveness of Sir Walter Scott’s use of contrast in the construction of the fictional world of Waverley


Essay, 2011
14 Seiten, Note: 1,0

Leseprobe

Essay question:

In the opinion of Robin Mayhead, one of the quintessential aspects of the literary method of Sir Walter Scott is its ‘bringing together of incongruously disparate worlds’. In the light of this view, discuss and assess the effectiveness of Scott’s use of contrast in the construction of the fictional world of Waverley.

In the opinion of Robin Mayhead, one of the quintessential aspects of the literary method of Sir Walter Scott is its ‘bringing together of incongruously disparate worlds’. This statement is to be examined on the example of his first novel Waverley in the following essay, by proving its truth in several aspects. First of all, Scott’s use of contrast in the novel’s plot will be observed, since there are two plots to be found in Waverley, which develop on different scales but which are still unified. Afterwards, the focus of interest will be the fictional world surrounding the protagonist. In this section, contrasting pairs of characters will be examined. Particular attention will be paid to the setting since its contrasting features underline symbolically the characters’ oppositions. Moreover, the contrasts between England and Scotland will be of interest. After having studied the contrasts displayed in the fictional world itself, the focus will be on the narrator. Finally, the essay will conclude by considering the literary context in which the novel was written and the ‘disparate worlds’ that influenced Scott’s writing.

One of the most salient uses of ‘disparate worlds’ in Waverley can be seen in its plot, since Scott manages to tell ‘a double history: the story of not just one man but of an historical epoch.’[1] The novel develops in fact two plots on different scales. On a personal scale, it examines Waverley’s life and ‘the development of his character from early youth to manhood.’[2] Thus, the plot covers Waverley’s development from being a naïve and romantic boy who is lost in his dreams to being a man who eventually manages to base his actions on his own judgements rather than on the opinions of other people. According to Millgate, the ‘exposure to reality will cure [Waverley] of his youthful romanticism and transform [the] dreaming boy into [a] mature man of reason.’[3]

On the public scale, however, the novel also deals with the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, which was ‘at once [a] desperate and heroic attempt to put the House of Stuart back on the British throne in the place of the House of Hanover.’[4] Therefore, the novel also contains the appearance of historical characters, such as Charles Edward Stuart, referred to as the Prince in this novel, as well as historical events, such as the battle of Preston, in which Waverley happens to participate. Thus, the journey, on which Waverley embarks, is ‘not timeless picaresque but one which will take him into the realms of historical action.’[5]

However, although the novel contains two different plots which can be easily separated from each other, they are not presented in isolation. Scott neither writes documentation on the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 by limiting his narration to historical facts, nor does he write an adventure story in which the historical facts would only serve as background information. The two plots are connected by the protagonist, since he witnesses historical events while being a fictional character.

Moreover, the two plots are also connected by a common movement. One the private scale, Waverley’s ‘youthful romanticism and idealism is progressively destroyed by the rationalism and common sense necessary for survival in the “civilized” society to which he finds he ultimately belongs.’[6] The same movement of disillusionment can be seen on the public scale, since ‘the heroic culture of clanship and of the feudal aristocracy comes to appear, through the events of the rebellion, hopelessly unrealistic and inopportune when confronted by the new order of Lowland Scotland and England, to which it finally gives way.’[7]

Thus, Scott manages to unify historical reality with fiction. By doing this, he was the first to write in the genre of the historical novel. Therefore, Scott’s bringing together of the disparate worlds of historical reality and fiction by developing two plots in one novel can be considered as a great achievement.

As a result of the ‘bringing together’ of historical reality and fiction, both real historical characters and fictional ones can be found in this novel. Since many of the characters in Waverley can be considered as foils, the contrasts and oppositions between them are to be examined in the following section.

Considering the characters in this novel, several contrasts can be found between various characters. Right at the beginning of the novel, Waverley’s father, Richard Waverley, and his uncle, Sir Everard, are presented as contrasting characters. The first contrast between these two characters becomes apparent in their political affiliation, since Sir Everard is a Tory while Richard Waverley sympathizes with the Whig party. Moreover, the opposition between these two characters becomes even more evident when we learn about their attitudes towards marriage. While Richard Waverley solely marries in order to advance his political career[8], Sir Everard relinquishes Lady Emily, the woman he wanted to marry, to a rival and even supports this rival in his military career.[9] Thus, a clear contrast can be seen in the two brothers. The oppositions presented by these two brothers prepare the reader to see the same contrasts in the characters of the Baron of Bradwardine and Fergus MacIvor. The contrasts between these two characters and Scott’s unifying of them form therefore the focus of interest in the following section.

[...]


[1] David Brown, Walter Scott and the historical imagination, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 6.

[2] David Brown, Walter Scott and the historical imagination, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), p.6.

[3] Jane Millgate, Walter Scott: The Making of the Novelist, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1984), p. 36.

[4] Robin Mayhead, Walter Scott, (London: Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 11-12.

[5] Jane Millgate, Walter Scott: The Making of the Novelist, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1984), p.37.

[6] David Brown, Walter Scott and the historical imagination, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 25.

[7] David Brown, Walter Scott and the historical imagination, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 25.

[8] cf. Sir Walter Scott, Waverley or ‘tis sixty years since, (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1876), p. 26.

[9] cf. Sir Walter Scott, Waverley or ‘tis sixty years since, (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1876), p. 29.

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Details

Titel
The effectiveness of Sir Walter Scott’s use of contrast in the construction of the fictional world of Waverley
Hochschule
University of Ulster
Note
1,0
Autor
Jahr
2011
Seiten
14
Katalognummer
V278161
ISBN (eBook)
9783656708292
ISBN (Buch)
9783656713296
Dateigröße
548 KB
Sprache
Deutsch
Schlagworte
walter, scott’s, waverley
Arbeit zitieren
Patricia Schneider (Autor), 2011, The effectiveness of Sir Walter Scott’s use of contrast in the construction of the fictional world of Waverley, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/278161

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