The Role of the Narrator in Don Juan Canto 1

While Don Juan is the titular character, I feel that the main character is not him, but the narrator. Not only does his strong personality (reminiscent of Byron’s) color the events of Don Juan’s life in the eyes of readers, as his word choice indicates his feelings towards Don Juan and his family, but he regularly inserts his own opinions. Early on, it is short interjections, like in stanza 60 when he says he appreciates “handsome eyes.” Moreso, though, the end of Canto 1 just includes the narrator’s opinions on epics, on contemporary authors like Coleridge and Wordsworth, love, education, and generally life–and these opinions line up in a way that is more than coincidental with Byron’s own. Don Juan isn’t even an afterthought; he is simply not mentioned. The narrator is the driver of Don Juan’s story (deciding the order in which to tell it as well as the manner of conveying it), but the poem can continue without Don Juan. The narrator seems like Byron’s explicit way of presenting his own opinions, which might be why the epic can continue without any (other) characters.

One thought on “The Role of the Narrator in Don Juan Canto 1”

  1. The more I mull over this question, the more I agree the narrator is more the main character than Don Juan. Beyond the fact Don Juan isn’t even mentioned throughout the end of Canto 1, even in the story when he is mentioned, he never seems to actually be doing anything. He’s always being acted upon rather than doing the acting himself, a lot like what Dana said in class: that he seems to lack agency. The narrator, on the other hand, seems to have active influence on the story, and consequently seems more important than Don Juan.

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