Authorial intrusion is a literary device in which the author directly addresses the reader, interrupting the narrative flow of the text. It involves breaking the fourth wall and momentarily stepping out of the story to offer commentary, explanation, or personal opinion. This technique is often used to provide additional context or clarification, to create a sense of intimacy or connection with the reader, or to convey the author’s worldview. Authorial intrusion can be found in various forms of literature, from novels and memoirs to essays and articles. It can also be used as a means of metafiction, or self-referential writing.
Examples of authorial intrusion:
In Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” the author makes direct comments on the characters and events in the novel, often through the voice of the narrator. For example, when Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth, the narrator makes a sarcastic comment about his character: “Mr. Collins, meanwhile, was meditating in solitude on what had passed. He thought too well of himself to comprehend on what motives his cousin could refuse him.”
In Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” the author directly addresses the reader in the opening chapter of the novel, explaining his reasons for writing the story and introducing himself as the narrator. He writes, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night.”
In Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” the author includes a preface where she explains the inspiration and purpose behind the novel. She writes, “I busied myself to think of a story, —a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror —one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name.”
In William Shakespeare’s plays, the author often includes asides, where a character speaks directly to the audience and provides commentary on the action of the play. For example, in “Hamlet,” the character Hamlet makes an aside in Act I, Scene II, saying, “A little more than kin, and less than kind,” in reference to his uncle and mother’s relationship.