Left-wing writer. Into social justice, feminism, class divide, and racial issues. Interested in human psychology. Also interested in the literary Gothic.
Junior Contributor I
Why is looking at characterisation so undermined in comparison to structure and form in English Literature? And what effects does this have?
I’m an English Literature student at university and throughout my time studying literature at school/ college, and even university, I’ve noticed a trend amongst teachers and markers, which is a reaction of almost scorn at analysis of character in fiction. To me this has always seemed the oddest phenomenon as character has always been the most interesting, and also sometimes most important and valid feature of a novel. Take ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ for example. During and after my reading of the text, there was so much meaning hidden in Atwood’s characters that I felt was integral to the message of her novel. Thinking about what I might write about for my dissertation, I felt ready and inspired to delve into this topic until I remembered the impression teachers have had of characterisation in the past. An example of this, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this sentiment, my a-level eng lit teacher told me to focus more on structure as it was considered higher level than character. This has always enraged me a little as I think avoidance of analysing character in a novel is avoidance of a whole chunk of the message of a book. As for the effects this has, I think this leads to a connection between fiction and the real world being lost. Often times I have questioned the purpose of analysing books if we are not taking deeper meaning from them in regards to the worlds that they were written in. I think undermining the importance of character in a book is evidence that the real purpose of a book (if it is concerned with a wider message, which they almost always are) is being lost.