Sunday, June 19, 2011

POV guiding

I'm grading lit exams, and came across this part of a selection from Middlemarch. Caveats: Eliot was writing in the 19th Century, where deep POV was done in first person, and third person POV was usually used for omniscience (or "omnivorous," as one writer called it :)

"No, Rosy," said Lydgate, decisively. "It is too late to do that. The inventory will be begun to-morrow. Remember it is a mere security: it will make no difference: it is a temporary affair. I insist upon it that your father shall not know, unless I choose to tell him," added Lydgate, with a more peremptory emphasis.

This certainly was unkind, but Rosamond had thrown him back on evil expectation as to what she would do in the way of quiet steady disobedience. The unkindness seemed unpardonable to her: she was not given to weeping and disliked it, but now her chin and lips began to tremble and the tears welled up. Perhaps it was not possible for Lydgate, under the double stress of outward material difficulty and of his own proud resistance to humiliating consequences, to imagine fully what this sudden trial was to a young creature who had known nothing but indulgence, and whose dreams had all been of new indulgence, more exactly to her taste. But he did wish to spare her as much as he could, and her tears cut him to the heart. He could not speak again immediately; but Rosamond did not go on sobbing: she tried to conquer her agitation and wiped away her tears, continuing to look before her at the mantel-piece.

Now my question is (and it makes a lot of difference, to judge by the essays I got about this)-- that second paragraph: Whose POV?  This is the 19th century, and omniscient and first-person were sort of the only options, and this isn't first. (This is a much more fun novel than I remember from college, btw.) So it's probably omniscient, dipping into each of the spouses' minds as needed.

Well, this is the 21st century, and POV tends to be more tight.  (I still like omniscient. But I write deep in one character's POV.)  So look at those two highlighted sentences.  They're the problematic ones, so aware they seem to be in the characters, but not solely in either. My students, trained in 21st century reading patterns, tried to ascribe the POV to one or the other, and I thought that whether they thought Rosamond was a princess-bitch or Lydgate was a smarmy scoundrel kind of depended on which they thought was in POV.

Anyway, how would you rewrite that if you wanted:
1. Omniscient
2. Hers
3. His

That is, if you were modernizing this paragraph to make it in one POV, how would you change the wording to reflect that? Anyone want to try?


1 comment:

Erastes said...

as far as i can see it would need a very small edit to "she seemed to br tring to control...." thereby keeping it in his pov