The Abbe Prevost's First-Person Narrators

BookThe Abbe Prevost's First-Person Narrators

The Abbe Prevost's First-Person Narrators

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 306


January 1st, 1993

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Amidst a revival of interest in the novels of the abbé Prévost, this study addresses some of the interpretive issues that are being raised concerning his work, namely what intellectual, moral and aesthetic meaning should we seek in works that were designed as entertainments, and should we persist in rating Manon Lescaut more highly than the rest of Prévost’s output? 
The narrative strategies and types of distortion inherent in each of Prévost’s narrators are examined. More general observations are made on the mechanics of Prévost’s narration such as the deceptive rhetorical devices of juxtaposing different accounts of the same event by two or more narrators and the use of the double registre or separation of narrator from protagonist. Other aspects of Prévost’s fictional technique are considered – for example, the extent to which he drew upon contemporary traditions in the novel. 
Another important theme is the relationship between Prévost’s fictional world and the real world in which topics such as other-portrayal and the handing of time reflect the degree of unreliability of the narrator’s vision. Parallel episodes and interpolations are also used to illuminate subtly the work’s central themes. 
The latter part of this study is dedicated to the moral dilemmas raised in Prévost’s work in which the world – and the author’s heroes – appear to be governed by three complex and often conflicting codes of behaviour – those of religion, honour, and ‘love’ or ‘sensibility’. In particular, the problems of women are represented as well as the failure of the heroic ideal amongst the aristocracy. In religious matters, Prévost is revealed as a man of tolerance, ultimately concerned with human nature. 
The Prévost who emerges from this study combines a high degree of technical mastery with a serious moral interest in the human heart. His demystification of the ideal of heroism and his fragmented vision of the human personality are likely to appeal to the modern reader. The powerful dramatisation of moral conflict, familiar in Manon Lescaut, is indeed to be found throughout his work. 

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
I. Prévost's narrators17
1. Mémoires d'un homme de qualité 19
2. Cleveland31
3. Le Doyen de Killerine39
4. The novels of 174045
5. The late novels55
6. Interpreting the narrator63
II. Narrative techniques95
7. Generic factors97
8. The observed world124
9. Interpolations and parallels141
III. Value systems in conflict157
A: The Code of Sensibility159
10. The man of emotion159
11. The legitimacy of love177
12. The perils of love190
13. The decline of an ideal205
14. Women in Prévost's novels213
B. The Code of Honour233
15. The ideal gentleman233
16. The ideal and the reality244
17. Worldliness255
18. Man in society270
C. The Code of Religion282
19. The religious life282
20. Providence295
21. The hierarchy of orders311