Hosseini never strays from his absolute focus of the thoughts and feelings of Mariam or Laila, which, I believe, builds a better relationship between the reader and the characters. Hardy, however, attempts to inject his own strong authorial voice of judgement throughout the novel. Hardy’s judgement of Tess’ situation is never subtle – in one of the closing sentences of the novel, the phrase ‘’Justice’ was done’ is featured. The inverted commas around the word ‘Justice’ gives the phrase a sarcastic, satirical tone – the bias of the authorial voice is clear. However, the reader is also conscious in some points of the novel that the authorial voice is that of a male – when Hardy first describes Tess, he describes her mouth as ‘mobile peony’, ‘pouted up’ and ‘deep red’. The colour red, and the presentation of Tess’ lips as a ‘peony’ (a blossomed flower) all bear connotations of sexuality – Hardy inadvertently sexualises Tess and inflicts his ‘male gaze’ upon her. This could give the reader a sense of hypocrisy – Hardy warns against the dangers of patriarchal views throughout the novel, yet seems to inflict them upon Tess himself. Hardy’s authorial voice, in my opinion, sometimes shows signs of pretentious rhetoric. His direct reference to ‘Paradise Lost’, in my opinion, stunts the progression of the novel’s narrative, and doesn’t aid him in evoking sympathy for Tess, or to make her plight as believable and universal as Mariam or Laila’s.
The voices of society are explicit in both novels. The voice of strict, traditional Victorian society can be heard indirectly through Angel Clare, when he finds out about Alec and Tess. He poses the question to Tess – ‘How can we live together whilst that man lives?’ – In a rhetoric manner, the mores of society making the answer, in his eyes at least, blindingly obvious. The rhetorical nature of Angel’s question implies how inherent the views of traditional Victorian society are. The voice of the Tailban, the force that oppresses women in society, can be heard through the flyer than flutters into Mariam’s garden. The flyer puts particularly emphasis on women, and uses phrases like ‘you will be severely beaten’ – phrases evocative of brutality and violence. A sense of force is created the repeated use of imperative verbs. The fact that the reader can hear a direct voice from the oppressive society, is, in my opinion, effective, as it brings an immediacy to Mariam and Laila’s fear.
The voices of characters are also used throughout the texts. Both authors present mothers of the female protagonists – Joan Durbeyfield and Nana. However, Joan Durbeyfield almost blames Tess for her situation – she says ‘You ought to have been more careful’. The words ‘you ought’ are accusatory of Tess. Nana, however, blames men, and their nature for her and Mariam’s unfortunate situation. She explains that a man’s heart won’t ‘stretch and bleed’ for a child, as a women’s will, using visceral imagery to compare women’s sacrifice to men’s wretched hearts. In my opinion, Nana’s voice is more effective, as it makes the plight of women seem collective.
In conclusion, I think that Hosseini’s use of voice evokes sympathy for the character, and condemn the societies the text is set in more effectively. Hardy’s application of voice makes the reader more distanced from Tess and Tess’ story, in a way that Hosseini’s doesn’t. Hosseini’s application of third person narrative gives Laila and Mariam’s experience a universality, Hardy’s just gives the reader less sympathy for Tess’ plight. His strong, judgemental authorial voice has a sense of moral loftiness that a reader, especially in a Victorian context, would struggle to identify with. He also uses a lot of what, in my opinion at least, is meaningless rhetoric in his narrative voice, and his literary references (like the reference to Paradise Lost), make the voice of the novel seem stilted and false. However, it is important to bear in mind that I am reading from a perspective of a modern audience – the melodramatic, unsubtle voice that Hardy uses would’ve been much more congruous to the Victorian style of literature that he writes in.