Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Perhaps It Goes Without Saying…

2 Comments

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the topic was touched on in class today of whether or not a character’s actions in a tale are meant to be the overall message of the tale. That is: if a character like our protagonist does not get an abortion, is the message of the novel, “Abortion is bad?” I feel that this is not the case, that a character is just that: an albeit fictional being living their life in what manner seems right to them. Of course, that is in truth up to the author, but I think treating the character as an entity rather than a hollow vessel to fill with the author’s didactic meaning is oftentimes vital to engaging a text. Sometimes it is not, sometimes a character really is nothing more than a pole on which the author may hang their banner. I may be a bad academic for saying so, but I just cannot enjoy tales of that sort. In any case: It certainly is possible for a reader to interpret a story in any manner of their choosing, but the author can only account for so much, lest they be forced to pepper their story with disclaimers. A writer discussing the subject of theatre once pointed out that even two people from the exact same background, sharing numerous experiences, may have experienced their similar lives in highly different ways, and I believe that is true of readers as well. An obvious but note-worthy truth, in that it indicates how limited an author’s capabilities are when it comes to accounting for interpretations. Thus, I feel it is imperative for readers to try, as often as can be done, to view characters only as characters, beings like themselves whose unique experiences shaped their decisions, rather than as indicators of the “only right path” from the author’s perspective. A good author’s characters will be as unique, each individually shaped by the life the author has built for them, and not meant as a model for the reader’s behavior, but as a person the reader may observe to learn of the experience of another being from a different perspective on the world into which they’ve been cast.

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2 thoughts on “Perhaps It Goes Without Saying…

  1. This is very well written! I agree that when analyzing literature it’s imperative to remove ourselves from the notions that everything a character does is purposeful. Characters are (mostly) human that make mistakes, triumphs, and are all-around unpredictable (unless they are terrible). This perspectives allows readers to transport themselves anywhere, which is why reading is so important to learn about different cultures and ways of living.

  2. Very well said. You articulated what I’d tried to articulate in the above post in a concise and eloquent manner.

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