Does a novel focus on one life or many? Alex Woloch uses this simple question to develop a powerful new theory of the realist novel, based on how narratives distribute limited attention among a crowded field of characters. His argument has important implications for both literary studies and narrative theory. Characterization has long been a troubled and neglected problem within literary theory. Through close readings of such novels as Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, and Le Pere Goriot, Woloch demonstrates that the representation of any character takes place within a shifting field of.