System of Images. Means of Characterization. 

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System of Images. Means of Characterization.

An image in art is a subjective reflection of reality. It is affected by the writer's power of imagination. Though every image is inspired by life, the writer reflects reality as he sees it.

An image is, on the one hand, a generalization and is never a complete identity of a person, thing or phenomenon. There is always something left out by the writer, and something that is emphasized or even exaggerated. On the other hand, an image in art is concrete with its individual peculiarities.

Since images in art reflect the writer's subjective attitude to them, they are always emotive. In the reader's mind images call up not only visual pictures and other sense impressions, they also arouse feelings, such as warmth, compassion, affection, delight, or dislike, disgust, resentment.

The images of a literary work form a system, which comprises a hierarchy of images, beginning with micro-images (formed by a word or a combination of words) and ending with synthetic images (formed by the whole literary work). Between the lowest level (the micro-images) and the highest level (the synthetic images) there are images which may be termed "extended images".

In literature attention is by far centered on man, human character and human behaviour. That explains why the character-image is generally considered to be the main element of a literary work; the images of things and landscape are subordinated to the character image.

Character-images are both real and unreal. They are real in the sense that they can be visualized, you easily see them act, you hear them talk, you understand and believe them. They are unreal in the sense that they are imaginary. Even if they are drawn from life and embody the most typical features of human nature, even if they are images of historical people, they are not identical with them, and are products of the writer's imagination.

In most stories one character is clearly central and dominates the story from the beginning up to the end. Such a character is generally called the main, central, or major character, or the protagonist. The main character may also be called hero or heгоine, if he or she deserves to be called so.

The antagonist is the personage opposing the protagonist or hero. The villain is the character with marked negative features. Sometimes in a literary work the writer will give us two characters with distinctly opposing features, we then say that one character serves as a foil to the other. The foil is so different that the important characteristics of the opposite personage are thereby sharply accentuated.

If a character is developed round one or several features, he becomes a type or a caricature. A type is characterized by qualities that are typical of a certain social group or class. A caricature is a character so exaggerated that he appears ridiculous and distorted, yet recognizable.

Characters may be simple or соmplex. Simple characters are constructed round a single trait. Complex characters undergo change and growth, reveal various sides of their personalities.

The main character is most relevant in a literary work, since it is through his fate that the message is conveyed. The minor characters are subordinate, they are generally introduced to reveal some aspects of the main character, or his relationship with people.

The writer selects only those descriptions that have special meaning in relation to the message of the story. Depending on the value which details have in fiction, one should distinguish between the so-called artistic details and particularities. The artistic detail is always suggestive. It therefore has a larger meaning than its surface meaning, as it implies a great deal more than is directly expressed by it. An artistic detail acquires expressive force and has both direct and indirect meaning. It is a poetic representation of a whole scene.

Particularities are details that cannot be treated as poetic representations of the whole. They serve to add something new about a character, or place, or event. They are incidental in the sense that it is difficult to explain the writer's choice of this rather than that colour, or time, etc. Nevertheless, particularities are not absolutely irrelevant. They contribute to verisimilitude, as they help to create a realistic picture of a person or event. Particularities are used for representing reality in a concrete form.

Characterization is the description of the different aspects of a character. There are two main types of characterization: direct and indirect. When the author rates the character himself, it is direct characterization. Direct characterization may be made by a character in the story. But when the author shows us the character in action, lets us hear him, watch him and evaluate him for ourselves, the author uses the indirect method of characterization.

The various means of characterization are:

1. Presentation of the character through action. A character in fiction is not just a static portrait, he acts. Sinceactions, movement, change, development always occur in fiction, actionserves as the main means of characterization.

2. Speech characteristics. Speech characteristics reveal the social and intellectual standingof the character, his age, education and occupation, his state of mindand feelings, his attitude and relationship with his interlocutors.

3. Psychological portrayal and analysis of motive. The penetration into the mind of the character, description of hismental processes and subtle psychological changes that motivate hisactions, the penetration into his thoughts — all that is an effectivemeans of characterization that writers very often resort to.

4. Description of the outward appearance. In fiction there exist some relationships between the character and his appearance.

5. Description of the world of things that surround the character. The character’sroom, clothing and other belongings may also serve as a means of characterization. Domestic interiors of the setting are sometimes treated as metonymic or metaphoric expressions of character.

6. The use of a foil. The writer may introduce a foil as a means of characterization. The foil accentuates the opposed features of the character he is contrasted to.

7. The naming of characters. The naming of characters may also serve as a means of characterization.

The name may be deliberately chosen to fit a certain character.



Narrative Method.

The narrative method involves such aspects as: who narrates the story and the way the narrator stands in relation to the events and to the other characters of the story.

The author can vary the narrative method depending on what he wants his readers to concentrate on. He can tell the story from the point of view of a character in the story, or from without — as an onlooker.

The author may select either of the following four types of narrators:

1. The main character. When the main character tells his story, the events of the story are presented to the reader through his perception. The author in this case places himself in the position of the main character and tells of things that only the main character saw and felt. (Jane Eyre by Ch.Bronte, The Catcher in the Rye by J.Salinger).

2. A minor character. When a minor character, who participates in the actions, narrates the story, the events are described through the perception of this character. The author places himself in the position of a minor character and gives this character's version of the events and personages. (The Pawnbroker's Wife by M.Spark)

3. The omniscient author. The author may narrate his story anonymously, analysing and interpreting the character's motives and feelings. The reader sees what goes on in the minds of all the characters. He is then guided by what is known to be the omniscient author. The omniscient author reproduces the characters' thoughts and comments on their actions. (Angel Pavement by J.Priestley, The Cop and the Anthem by O'Henry).

4. The observer - author. The story may be told in such a way that we are given the impression of witnessing the events as they happen — we see the actions and hear the conversations, but we never enter directly into the minds of any of the characters. In this case the reader is guided by the observerauthor. The observer – author merely records the speech and actons of the characters without analysing them (E.Hemingway's stories).

  • When the story is told by the main character or the omniscient author, the events are analysed internally, reflecting the main character's point of view.

· When the narrator is either a minor character or the observer-author, the story is an outside observation of events and does not reflect the main character's feelings and attitude, his point of view.

· When told by a character in the story, the story is a first-person narrative. When told by the author, it is a third-person narrative.

· If the story is a first-person narrative, it is told from the narrator's point of view and the reader gets a biased understanding of the events and the other characters, because he sees them through the perception of the character who narrates.

· At the same time any story always reveals the author's point of view even if it is implied. The character's and the author's viewpoints may or may not coincide.

· When the author shifts the responsibility of telling the story to a first-person narrator, he actually provides his reader with two versions of one and the same story: the explicitly expressed subjective

version and the implied objective version, which the skilled reader is expected to derive. To understand the implied objective version one should take into account which type of narrator the story-teller is and whether he is a reliable narrator or an unreliable one.


Ø A first-person narrative is a very effective means of revealing the personality of the character who narrates. The narrator tells what he thinks and feels, and the reader easily understands his motives, his nature. The writer without resorting to analysis gets the advantage of defining this character more closely. He does not have to say whether the character is sensitive, easily affected or self-controlled, kind or cruel, he simply lets the character demonstrate his features. That becomes clear and visible to the reader, and this first-hand testimony increases the immediacy and freshness of the impression.

Ø There are no limitations on the freedom of the omniscient authоr. He is all-seeing and all-knowing. He can follow any characterto a locked room or a desert island. He may get inside his character'sminds, add his own analysis of their motives and actions. It is theauthor's voice, his evaluations, his opinion of the events and charactersthat the reader hears and, therefore, the reader can easily analyse theauthor's point of view. The omniscient author may wander away from the subjectof the narrative to state his personal view or to make a general statement.Such a statement is known as the author's digression. A digression usually involves a change of tense from the past to the generic 'timeless' present. In this way the author directly conveys his presence as a guide and interpreter.


Ø In the case of the o b s e r v e r - a u t h o r, the story is a scene or series of scenes, narrated by an onlooker who does not interfere for a ny comments or reflections of these events. The main focus of interest is the study of actions and events. The advantage of this narrative method is that the observer-author lets the reader see, hear, and judge the characters and their actions for himself. He stimulates the reader to form his own impression and make his own judgements.


Stories told by the observer-author may be presented in either the dramatic, or the pictorial form. A story is said to have a dramatic form, when one scene follows another and the characters act and speak as in drama.

A story is considered to have a pictorial form, when the observer-author pictures the scenes, but he tells of what anyone might see and hear in his position without entering into the minds of any of the characters, without analysing their motives.


Tonal System.

In every literary work the writer's feelings and emotions are reflected in the tone, attitude and atmosphere.

· Atmosphere is the general mood of a literary work. It is affected by such strands of a literary work as the plot, setting, characters, details, symbols, and language means.

· The authоr's attitude is his view of the characters and actions. It reflects his judgement of them. The author's attitude establishes the moral standards according to which the reader is to make his judgements about the problems raised in the story. The reader is expected to share the author's attitude. The attitude of a writer to his subject matter determines the tone of the story.

· The tone is the light in which the characters and events are depicted. The tone, therefore, is closely related to atmosphere and attitude. Tone in oral speech is a component of intonation and is one of the prosodic means of expressing the speaker's attitude to the subject matter and to his interlocutor. Tone is so important in oral communication that it can overrule the sense of the grammatical structure of an utterance or the lexical meanings of words. Tone in oral speech is primarily conveyed by modulations of the voice pitch, whereas in written speech the tone is mainly conveyed verbally, primarily by emotionally coloured words. (For example, the indices of the sombre and gloomy tone in The Oval Portrait are suchwords as "gloom", "deep midnight", "deep shadow", "dreamy stupour","vague yet detp shadow", "vague and quaint words", etc.)

· A humorous tone is created by an apt usage of deliberate exaggerations, a round-about way of naming things (or periphrasis), unexpected comparison (or simile), jargonisms, dialectal words, words which sound amusing in the particular situation because they do not belong in it.

The usage of these means often produces a humorous effect and testifies to the inventiveness and wit of the author. (In O'Henry's story The Cop and the Anthem humour is attained by unexpected occurrence of foreign and learned words in very homely situations).

The object of humour is generally a funny incident or an odd featureof human character. When the writer ridicules social vices and weaknessesof human nature that are typical of social groups or classes, thehumour is then ironical or satirical humour.


· Irony is identified as a double sense which arises from contrast. It is a wide-ranging phenomenon and may be achieved both by linguistic andextra-linguistic means. Verbal irony is manifested in a word or a sentence which in a particular context acquires a meaning opposite of what it generally has. Irony in such a case suggests the discrepancy between a statement and its actual sense. The actual sense is the true one that an intelligent reader is expected to deduce.

Irony may be extended over a whole story and may be created extralinguistically by the contrast between what the character seeks and what he obtains. This is called " irony of life ".

The author may also create irony by letting the reader know something a character does not know, or amazing both the reader and the character by quite an unexpected result or consequence of an action, which turns out to be quite opposite to what the character hoped and expected. This is called "dramatic irony". (O'Henry's story The Cop and the Anthem affords an excellent illustration of dramatic irony. The series of unexpected turns of events and the surprise ending in the story are deeply ironical.)

Irony may be achieved by simulated adoption of another's point of view for the purpose of revealing certain weaknesses, or for the purpose of ridicule and sarcasm. The contrast between the adopted viewpoint and the author's viewpoint results in irony. (In The lady's Maid by K.Mansfield, where the irony is developed by contrasting the point of view of the naive narrator to that of the author. The irony is clearly felt despite the lively and friendly tone of the maid's narrative.)

· One should distinguish between the authorial tone and the character's tone.


· One should distinguish between the prevailing tone of a literary work and emotional overtones, which may accompany particular scenes in the story. They all form a " tonal system" which reflects the changes of the narrator's attitude to his subject matter.

The emotional overtones generally form a "tonal unity' which means a consistency of attitude towards the events and characters. This consistency of attitude is reflected in the consistent use of language appropriate to the events and characters. The 'tonal unity' forms the prevailing tone of the story, which plays the dominant role and determines to a great extent the message of the literary work.


· The narrator may establish an intimate, personal, or formal relationship with the reader. Hence he may discourse at ease and assume a familiar tone, or he may retain a relative distance and narrate in an official tone. The official tone is set up by words and idioms that have an official ring, e.g. "relevant" (for "important"), "up to the present time" (for "up to now").

The familiar tone is established by features of the spoken language, the conversational style in particular. To these features belong colloquial words and idioms.



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