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Author

Anna Allen

Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Monika Siebert

Abstract

“My name is Ruth,” begins Marilynne Robinson’s 1980 novel, Housekeeping, echoing the openings of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Like the autodiegetic narrators before her, after this introduction, Ruth speaks about her past, further establishing herself as a first person narrator. As we would expect from these opening lines, at many points through the novel teenage Ruth relies on her own experiences and knowledge about her adolescence in the American west to create her narrative authority. Other times, however, her first person narration shifts into a more detached, nearly omniscient mode. These unexpected shifts pose a question: why would Robinson allow her protagonist to establish the autodiegetic narrative mode, which draws its authority from witnessing and experiencing events, to then abandon it and have Ruth narrate what she was not there for, what she could not sense, and what she did not see or hear?

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