Posted on March 12th, 2011 1 comment
Every character within a novel has a purpose. The main characters propel the story onward, carrying readers on a journey. Plenty of supporting characters cross paths with the protagonists, each for a particular reason. Sometimes these characters are as well rounded as the primary ones. Oftentimes, they are flat, cardboard cutouts with just enough description to bring them to purposeful life. Their purpose: to confront the main hero with varying aspects of society and emotion so that, through interaction and dialogue, the reader can learn more about the protagonist. These cookie-cutter characters are so vital in exploring the main characters’ personalities that few novels, if any, go without them. To explore this, I take examples from four of my favorite classic novels: Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Posted on December 23rd, 2010 No comments
Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is a veiled allegory. She creates real, believable characters in a compelling story of love and growing up. Beneath it all, she makes commentary on the world she lives in: a male-dominated, money-ruled society in which women are left clinging to men for support. Austen accentuates this by symbolically evicting any useful male role model from the narrative, leaving behind only men who are functionally useless to the Dashwood women. She disrupts the Dashwoods’ attempt at a decent life with others’ concerns of money and status. Readers are then witness to the breakdown of the societal norms, and privy to the reactions of poor Elinor and Marianne.
Austen begins the narration:
The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of their property, where, for many generations, they had lived in so respectable a manner, as to engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance. (5)
Within the first two sentences, Austen reinforces the expected stereotypes of the time: large, wealthy estates, established ancestry, and living life in a way that garners the respect of your peers. Within two pages, she tears it all down. In the novel’s third paragraph, the owner of the estate dies, leaving it to his nephew in such a way that guarantees the nephew’s son as eventual benefactor. In the fourth paragraph, the nephew dies as well. In spite of the nephew being survived by a wife and three daughters, hands are tied as his son from another marriage takes control of the estate’s wealth, one Mr. John Dashwood.