Plurivocal Narration as an Empathic Response of Resistance to Colonial Prejudice. Writing Alterity in The Voyage Out

by Angela Locatelli

This essay proposes that literature is instrumental to the development of an
‘ethics of the empathetic imagination’. Literature illustrates, and often propounds
widely shared cultural beliefs. But literature’s association with any
cultural system is also manifest a contrario, in the fact that it interrogates and
challenges the very logic, codes, and elements of the system, not only at the
level of characters’ values and behavior, but also starting from the writer’s
special use of language and narrative strategies. The pluri-vocal quality of
complex literature enhances the perception of widely different subject positions
and becomes a powerful tool of resistance against prejudice in favour of
a sophisticated assessment of alterity. This thesis will be argued also with reference
to Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out, and special attention will be paid to
the novel’s empathetic dismantling of a dominator’s colonial mentality. The
antithetical positions of the narrator and most of the characters allows for a
scathing and subtle critique of the colonial mentality.