Study Guide

Where Angels Fear to Tread Narrator Point of View

By E. M. Forster

Narrator Point of View

Third Person Omniscient

The third-person omniscient narrator of Where Angels Fear to Tread can see into the thoughts and feelings of all the characters (some more than others), while remaining objective and staying out of the action.

Even though Forster lets us look into the minds of the main characters, he also keeps his distance to show the sheer absurdity of their behavior and actions. This means that we're both emotionally invested in Lilia's romance with Gino, and mentally able to recognize that she's probably making a big mistake.

The narrator also gives us frequent sideline commentary, throwing in opinions at odd moments to express larger truths about Life and Human Nature. A great example of this is when the narrator starts off describing Miss Abbott watching Gino kiss his son affectionately, and then suddenly launches into a general commentary about Life:

She turned away her head when Gino lifted his son to his lips. This was something too remote from the prettiness of the nursery. The man was majestic; he was a part of Nature; in no ordinary love scene could he ever be so great. For a wonderful physical tie binds the parents to the children; and—by some sad, strange irony—it does not bind us children to our parents. For if it did, if we could answer their love not with gratitude but with equal love, life would lose much of its pathos and much of its squalor, and we might be wonderfully happy. (7.118)

Okay, so the first three sentences of this paragraph are pretty straightforward: Miss Abbott experiences a sense of awe in the face of Gino's devotion to his son, so she averts her gaze out of embarrassment for trying to take the baby. Clear enough.

But what are we to make of the last two sentences? Who is this mysterious, collective "we" that the narrator refers to? Does this "we" include us, the readers? The narrator uses the specific scene between Miss Abbott and Gino to make a larger generalization about human nature and the relationship between parents and their children. These interjections give us food for the thought.

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