Unintrusive narrator: An omniscient, third-person narrator who relates a story without (or with a minimum of) personal commentary. Also called an objective or impersonal narrator, an unintrusive narrator “states the facts” and, as far as possible, leaves matters of judgment up to the reader. The most drastic examples of unintrusive narrators are those who do not even relate the characters’ feelings, motives, or states of mind. Many contemporary critics question the very concept of the unintrusive narrator, arguing that a self-effacing voice does not and probably cannot exist.
EXAMPLES: The following realistic works feature unintrusive narrators: Stendhal’s (Marie-Henri Beyle) The Red and the Black (1830), Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1857), and the novels in Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire series (1855—67) and Palliser series (1864—80). Unintrusively narrated short stories include Ernest Hemingway’s “The Killers” (1927) and Paul Theroux’s “Clapham Junction” (1980). The narration in the movie March of the Penguins (2005) was generally unintrusive, particularly compared to the original French version, La marche de l’empereur (2005).