Narrative strategy

Albert C. Baugh observed that Esther Waters goes beyond the limitations of naturalism. Moore used the narrative technique of a limited point of view, derived from Flaubert, Turgenev and Henry James. (1495) Moore's narrator reveals the heroine’s consciousness in a manner that resembles that of Henry James’s central consciousness.

An interesting feature of Moore's narrative strategy in Esther Waters is the use of the free flow of thoughts which was later used as the stream-of-consciousness technique by Dorothy Richardson, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

She sat on her wooden chair facing the wide kitchen window. She had advanced one foot on the iron fender; her head leaned back, rested on her hand. She did not think — her mind was lost in vague sensation of William, and it was in this death of active memory that something awoke within her, something that seemed to her like a flutter of wings; her heart seemed to drop from its socket, and she nearly fainted away, but recovering herself she stood by the kitchen table, her arms drawn back and pressed to her sides, a death-like pallor over her face, and drops of sweat on her forehead. The truth was borne in upon her; she realised in a moment part of the awful drama that awaited her, and from which nothing could free her, and which she would have to live through hour by hour. So dreadful did it seem, that she thought her brain must give way. She would have to leave Woodview. Oh, the shame of confession! Mrs. Barfield, who had been so good to her, and who thought so highly of her. Her father would not have her at home; she would be homeless in London. No hope of obtaining a situation…. they would send her away without a character, homeless in London, and every month her position growing more desperate. [85]

Esther Waters was, as Stephen Regan writes in his Introduction to the latest Oxford edition of the novel, “a major breakthrough in Moore's fictional technique and in novel writing in England more generally.” (vii-viii)

Related Material


Baugh, Albert C. A Literary History of England. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1948.

Hicks, Granville. Figures of Transition: A Study of British Literature at the End of the Nineteenth Century. New York: Macmillan, 1939.

Kranidis, Rita S. Subversive Discourse: The Cultural Production of Late Victorian Feminist Novels. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Moore, George. Esther Waters. Edited with an Introduction and Notes by David Skilton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

___. A Communication to My Friends. London: Nonesuch Press, 1933.

Ohmann, Carol. “George Moore’s Esther Waters”. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 25(2) 1970, 174-187.

Regan, Stephen. Introduction to George Moore's Esther Waters. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Last modified 12 July 2014