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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. Moreover, he may create images of scenes which he could have never observed (as in historical novels).
Аn 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. Literary art appeals to the reader through all the senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. 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.
Our emotional responses are directed by the words with which the author creates his images. This explains why writers are so particular about the choice of words. However, when we read fiction, it is not the words that we actually respond to, it is the images which these words create that arouse the reader's response. This does not mean that wording in literary art is irrelevant. Any change of a word affects the reader's response, as words may evoke sense impressions. Compare:
He was a stout man. "His features were sunk into fatness... His neck was buried in rolls of fat. He sat in his chair... his great belly thrust forward..."
(S. Maugham. Red)
The images created by figures of speech in S. Maugham's description call up a visual picture of a concrete fat man and evoke in the reader definite feelings, including those of antipathy and even aversion. Whereas "He was a stout man" does not arouse negative feelings.
As Joseph Conrad puts it, a writer creates images by means of the commonplace words that we all use, "the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage... My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel — it is before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it iseverything." "Художник не столько сообщает о переживаниях своего героя, сколько создает эти переживания в форме художественной речи."
It must be noted that 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 the story The Pawnbroker's Shop by M. Spark the scene of Mrs. Cloote's examination of the articles brought to her pawnshop affords a vivid illustration of the hierarchy of images. "The examination would be conducted with utter intensity, seeming to have its sensitive point, its assessing faculty, in her long nose ... She would not smell the thing actually, but it would appear to be her nose which calculated and finally judged ... A list of the object's defects would proceed like a ticker tape from the mouth of Mrs. Jan Cloote." The micro-images of the separate peculiarities of Mrs. Cloote constitute an extended image of a feature of her personality. Whereas the synthetic image of Mrs. Jan Cloote is comprised of a whole series of microimages and extended images which the whole story contains.
In literature attention is by far centered on man, human character and human behaviour. That explains why the character-image (synthetic 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. Thus, landscape-images are generally introduced to describe the setting, to create a definite mood or atmosphere. Yet even a landscape-image, as well as an animal-image, may become the central character of the story. For instance, Nature is the main antagonist of the major character in The Old Man and the Sea by E. Hemingway; or again animal-images are the central characters in The Jungle Book by R. Kipling.
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 I hem 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 historic J people, they are not identical with them, and are products of the writer's imagination. In The Summing Up S. Maugham writes, "I have been blamed because I have drawn my characters from living persons ... But people are all elusive, too shadowy, to be copied, and they are also too ... contradictory. The writer doesn't copy his originals; he takes what he wants from them, a few traits that have caught his attention.” Nevertheless characters in literature often reveal so much of human nature and seem so real, that the readers tend to forget that they are fictions.
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 is also be called hero or heroine, if he or she deserves tobe 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. Thus a mean person will act as a foil to a kind and generous man. It is through the use of the foil that the contrast between the characters is seen more clearly. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are designed as foils for each other. In J. B. Priestley's novel Angel Pavement Mr. and Mrs. Smeeth are also foils, as they are distinctly opposed personalities. Mr. Smeeth's constant apprehension and fear of losing his job is contrasted with Mrs. Smeeth's jolly nature and thoughtlessness, his worries about the insecurity of his family and his desire to save money for a rainy day are emphasized by the contrast with Mrs. Smeeth's extravagance and passion to spend immediately all the money she gets.
When a character expresses the author's viewpoint directly, he is said to be the author's mouthpiece. Dr. Watson is considered to be Conan Doyle's mouthpiece.
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.
M. Twain's story Mistaken Identity contains masterfully created caricatures. The conductor's and the porter's slavish politeness and eagerness to dance attendance on a man whom they took for a general, are exaggerated to the utmost. Their "bows and a perfect affluence of smiles", the way they approached “oozing politeness from every pore”, Tom's smiling face which was "thrust in at the crack of the door" create a grotesque caricature on servility to men of rank and wealth. It is acontrast to vanity, cocksureness and satisfaction at being treated servilely, the features round which the narrator's character is developed.
Characters may be simple (flat) or complex (well-rounded). Simple characters are constructed round a single trait. Complex characters undergo change and growth, reveal various sides of their personalities. Hamlet is a complex character, as he is .brave and hesitant, sensitive and unyielding. Contradictory features within a character make it true-to-life and convincing.
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.
Complete descriptions of absolutely all the actions, thoughts, feelings of the characters in fiction are impossible and unnecessary. The writer selects only those that have special meaning in relation to the message of the story. Moreover, a full and photographic description is often substituted by a detail. 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. In this sense an artistic detail may be treated as a metonymic expression of the whole. An artistic detail, just as any micro-image, is stimulating to the imagination.
A few artistic details may suggest a whole life-story. Thus, the "swollen" face, feet and hands with "fingers worked to the bone", which Priestley mentions about Mrs. Cross (in Angel Pavement) tell us just as much of her hard life as a whole page of her life-story would. The sharpness of those artistic details stimulates the reader's imagination and creates the image of a woman exhausted by a life full of hardships.
At the same time an artistic detail contributes to individualization and verisimilitude. It creates the sense of reality, the sense of getting to know a concrete real individuality with its specific characteristics. An artistic detail is therefore both implicative and individualizing.
In fiction not all details are artistic details. There often occur details that cannot be treated as poetic representations-of the whole (such as the colour of the eyes of a character, the time at which he left his home, etc). They serve to add something new about a character, or place, or event. Such details are called particularities. They are incidental in the sense that it is difficult (or impossible) 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.
Therefore, an artistic detail is significant beyond its literal meaning and has expressive force, whereas a particularity signifies only what is directly expressed by it and has no implication. However, both artistic details, and particularities contribute to verisimilitude and credibility of the story, as they individualize, particularize and specify the characters, objects and events, thus representing actual life in all its diversity. They encourage acceptance on the part of the reader and increase convincingness of what is described.
One of the most essential factors in literature is the convincingness of the characters. Their behaviour, thoughts and feelings will arouse the reader's response if he believes them.
"The foundation of good fiction is character-creating and nothing else ... Style counts; plot counts; originality of outlook counts. But none of these counts anything like so much as the convincingness of the characters. If the characters are real, the novel will have a chance; if they are not, oblivion will be its portion ..."
The characters may be described from different aspects: physical, emotional, moral, spiritual, social. The description of the different aspects of a character is known as characterization. There are two main types of characterization: direct and indirect. When the author rates the character himself, it is direct characterization. For example, when J. Priestley says that Golspie "was dogmatic, rough, domineering, and was apt to jeer and sneer”, he uses the direct method of 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 indirect characterization are as follows: