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Dickens's Art of Characterization
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By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. In fiction as in life, maybe he is just a conscientious automobile mechanic or a Sunday gardener taking some well-earned recreational relief from the stresses of his job as a salesman! We should be alert to the possibility that in fiction, as opposed to life outside it, details are often deployed in these additional signifying ways.
Characterization in film
But we should always be mindful of the fact that whether , in a given case, they indeed are functioning this way depends on the the implications of other details within the story as a whole. Note, though, that taking clear stock of these matters of motivation which might have an important bearing on plot development requires us in the first instance not confuse physical traits with character traits. Before we can appreciate how a physical trait might contribute to the formation of a character trait we would first have to have them clearly in mind as distinct from each other!
An analogous series of points can be made about the conceptual distinction between social traits and character traits. Any of these attributes might or might not like various physical traits be an essential element of a given person's "personal identity," for himself or herself, or for others. But this they can do only in virtue of the fact that they are not identical with each other. This is one of those situations, with a piece of technical vocabulary, where we have to take care not to let the language we inherit from our language community mislead us!
It turns out that not all traits that attach to a character a fictional personnage qualify as what we call "character traits. The traits that are not properly speaking character traits may, however, relate in one or another important indirect way to character traits. Why these distinctions are so important to keep in mind.
Thinking of a physical feature or of a social attribute as a character trait will block important potential insights, because doing so makes it impossible to ask how the physical or social trait in question contributes to, or reflects if it does , this or that personality trait. The centrality of "character" in much narrative and dramatic fiction.
They are deeply curious about why people act the way they do. This leads them to be interested in figuring out the various ways it is possible for people to misunderstand each others' behavior, either causally "why would he insult his niece that way? Such authors will expect us to be willing to embark on complicated explorations of their characters' motivation and assumptions. Often this is an expression of their sharing their readers' interest in issues pertaining to the responsibility of agents for actions and their consequences.
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This deep interest in the element of character is one of the characteristic traits of the genre known as "the short story," which is a comparatively recent literary phenomenon "merely" a couple of hundred years or so old. For a discussion of come of the choices writers make in approaching the task of characterization , see the articles in our Glossary of Critical Concepts on. Not all fiction cares about character. We need to remind ourselves that many authors well worth knowing are little concerned with exploring the complexities of this dimension of life.
Or they may prefer to explore the implications of a metaphysical "possibility" "what if time, like space, could by labyrinthine, so that there were such a thing as divergent, parallel, and convergent times? Still others regard the whole notion of character in the sense at hand as an illusion fostered by certain cultures and notably by Western European culture since the last half or so of the 18th Century or, in other theories, since St.
Augustine of Hippo [d. There are thinkers who argue that the notion of "character" as something to be postulated as "behind" behavior as its cause is not merely mythology but pernicious in its effects. The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre d.
On this view, the idea of "character" functions to hide the fundamental fact of human ethical freedom, the power to choose to be whatever, ethically, one pleases. One cannot choose the color of one's skin, but this is of no ethical significance.
One can choose to face facts, to die rather than tell a secret, to quit drinking, to take responsibility for the rules one adopts for governing one's conduct. But it also licenses the anti-Semite and the racist to despise the Other who, no matter how charitably he appears to behave, is "a dirty Jew" or a "savage nigger" and to behave inhumanely to that Other for, if I adopt this perspective, then no matter what I do, I am intrinsically noble in virtue of my indelible status as a "true Frenchman" or "white American".
Sartre is willing to permit the use of the word "character," but only on condition that it be assigned a logically quite different meaning and function. It cannot be used to denote a supposed essence stable and "real" behind existence actual conduct, which is, however, merely "appearance" insofar as it is derivative of the "real" productive factor, essential character. It can only serve as a provisional empirical generalization of someone's behavior. On this view, we can, if we insist, call someone "a coward," but do so legitimately only on condition that we understand this to mean no more than that up to now he has conducted himself in a cowardly fashion, and that as soon as he chooses to behave in a courageous manner, he ceases to " be a coward.
For Sartre, the crucial point is that one can never leave out of account, finally, that it is choice human freedom that makes any potentially motivating factor into an actual motive. It is not, he insists, your values that "make you decide" to do this rather than that.
Characterization in film | Lift-Off Global Network
It is your chosen allegiance to those values that give them any leverage over your conduct in the first place. Sartre is fed up, in other words, with people who ask to be excused from the consequences of their concrete decisions because their sincere convictions "gave them no alternative.
Character is nevertheless a central dimension of much fiction. Now it is true that some writers who are fascinated by the dimension of character in fiction also hold the conviction that "character is fate. In fact, a particular object of fascination in much literature, especially beginning in the 19 th Century, is the possibility of "change in character. Can people "reformulate" their "identity"? These questions are at the heart of one of the great inventions in the genre of the novel, the so-called Bildungsroman , or "novel of education," as they are in one of the major focuses of psychology in the last hundred years, the theorizing and study of "personality development.