For Sartre writing has to be guided by an ethics of freedom. Characters in novels, however, may be representations of free human beings but they cannot themselves be free, since they are governed by the choices of their author and the nature of their medium. The world represented in novels is thus the opposite of a world of Sartrean freedom: it is a pre-determined world. It is a paradox that Spark employs to allow her characters to reveal their own status as the products of fiction and thus challenge the apparently mimetic medium in which they exist. All of her early novels – particularly Robinson and The Ballad of Peckham Rye – present her characters as explorers of the limitations of the mimetic tradition which was taken, in studies such as Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis and Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel, to be fundamental to the genre of the novel.
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