Authorial Intrusion

Authorial Intrusion is an interesting literary device wherein the author penning the story, poem or prose steps away from the text and speaks out to the reader. Authorial Intrusion establishes a one to one relationship between the writer and the reader where the latter is no longer a secondary player or an indirect audience to the progress of the story but is the main subject of the author’s attention.

In many olden novels, especially in suspense novels, the protagonist would move away from the stream of the story and speak out to the reader. This technique was often used to reveal some crucial elements of the story to the reader even though the protagonist might remain mystified within the story for the time being.

21 thoughts on “Authorial Intrusion”

  1. In the great “Kouroo” staff constructing climax to Walden, Thoreau suddenly intrudes into his text by writing;

    “By the time he had smoothed and polished the staff Kalpa was no longer the pole-star; and ere he had put on the ferrule and the head adorned with precious stones, Brahma had awoke and slumbered many times.

    But why do I stay to mention these things?

    When the finishing stroke was put to his work, it suddenly expanded before the eyes of the astonished artist into the fairest of all the creations of Brahma.”

    This particular type of authorial intrusion, where the author also implicitly pretends it may be necessary to end the ongoing discourse altogether, is also quite common. Perhaps the most adroit practitioner of the device in 20th Century fiction was Samuel Beckett, who was forever breaking into his works with his authorial voice to say things like “I can’t go, I will go on.” Unfortunately, I cannot find a name for this particular device in the canonical rhetorical literature, which is a bit odd since the Western rhetorical nomenclature is very well developed and extensive. Does anyone know of a name for it?

  2. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses this device in most of his novels. I’m currently reading The House of the Seven Gables wherein authorial intrusion abounds.

  3. Someone already commented on Victor Hugo doing this in Hunchback; here’s a fun example from Les Misérables. He’s sharing a dialogue between Cosette and the elderly maid who has a speech impediment. To this point in the book, he’s indicated her stuttering when quoting her. Now he inserts a parenthetical statement to the reader: “(We have noticed once for all Toussaint’s stammering. Let us be permitted to indicate it no longer. We dislike the musical notation of an infirmity.)”

  4. I think Leif Enger’s novel “Peace Like a River” uses this technique.I found it very moving in the context of this particular book, told from the perspective of both a young boy and his adult self.

  5. in the context of comic books, it is referenced as breaking the fourth wall, when a character in the panel or storyline addresses the reader

  6. This term ‘Authorial Intrusion’ sounds like a slam…is there another term/phrase to describe when the author jumps into the story and adds his two cents then leaves and the reader is left with the characters to finish the novel?

  7. “Mr. B. Gone” by Clive Barker was much like this. The main character of the novel regularly speaks directly to the reader telling us to burn the book, to stop reading the book, etc. in an attempt to make it a touch more realistic, as if the book is inhabited by the character.

  8. Victor Hugo uses it a lot in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as he describes the Parisian architecture of the 15th century – ”If the reader allows me, I will proceed …” etc.

  9. I read a book which, at the end of one chapter, would say: “I hope you flip the page.” And the next chapter would say: “Phew, you flipped the page.”

    1. Oh, I remember that book. It was a children’s book. But wasn’t that “Whatever you do, dont turn the page!” I think it was Grover from Sesame Street… Theres a Monster at the End of this Book.

  10. The short story “How to Transform an Everyday Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium” by Matt de la Pena is another example of authorial Intrusion.

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