Importance of Characterization How can introducing characters to the reader play an essential role in the story? There’s no doubt that the characters are important in fiction because the make events happen, so the way of introduce them to the reader surely makes a difference. Besides that, characters can be introduced to the reader not only by direct statements but also by what they do, say or think, by how other characters see them, by their names, by their appearance and also through dialogues. These are called the techniques of characterization.
In order to make it clearer, we will talk about the two stories: James Joyce’s Araby and James Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis. Araby is a short story about a guy who used to be insanely in love with a girl and then he was disappointed when he faced the reality and realized it was too good to be true, while the Scarlet Ibis is a short story about a guy whose pride has won over his love to his brother. The techniques of characterization used in these two stories and the changes that happened to the main characters (protagonists) will be discussed below.
First, let’s start analyzing the conflict in James Joyce’s Araby. As mentioned, it’s a short story narrated by an adult talking about how he was suddenly introduced to the adulthood and how it was different from his expectations. The protagonist in this story had that “confused adoration” for a girl which took him far away from reality, and this can be noticed in many of his statements just as describing his body as “A harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires” (Joyce 110).
When the girl first talked to him she told him about a Bazaar called Araby and her desire to attend but could not. Because he was a “foolish blood”, he thought that she had feelings for him too, this made him go far away with his imagination, but then, when he went to the bazaar, he was shocked with the objective reality and the materialism of the modern world. The conflict here is inside the narrator (inner conflict) and can be seen in his reaction to the fact of how life can be so materialistic and the struggle he faced trying to deal with it, as well as to fit in the adulthood world.
In other words, we can say that he had a moment of epiphany and came back down to reality. It’s undeniable that that moment of epiphany had a great impact on the narrator. It was like a turning point in his life. Of course, the narrator’s character at the beginning of the story wasn’t the same at the end of it. At the beginning of the story, the narrator was a foolish boy who thought everything in life was perfect, and that was obvious in the way he thought and things he did. After going through that experience, something had changed inside him; he felt angry and couldn’t absorb the change.
However, when he got older, he could tell what his feelings and reactions meant or simply, just express himself properly. The reader could tell that at the end of the story, the narrator had become wiser and more realistic just by looking at the way he narrated the story. Therefore, the protagonist here was characterized by things he had done, said and thought about. Next is James Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis which is a story about a boy who has always dreamed of having a brother. It happened, but his brother was handicapped and couldn’t move.
Since he used to think of his brother as a burden, he decided to help him move and act normally, not because of his love to him, but because of his pride “whose slave he was”, but the poor brother could not bear with it. The protagonist in this story had an inner conflict against his pride; he used to get pushed by his it and that was shown very clearly through the protagonist’s statement when he said “They did not know that I did it for myself; that pride whose slave I was, spoke to me louder than all their voices” (Hurst 137).
Moreover, even though the words he used while talking to his brother were supportive, just as ”Oh you can walk”, his motivation was also the pride. Another thing is the inner conflict that the narrator had with the guilt he felt after realizing that his reactions had actually killed his brother as he laid there “sheltering his own fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy rain” (Hurst 140). No doubt that the experience the protagonist had in this story was unforgettable. When he first new that his brother was handicapped, he could not accept it, so he tried to force his brother to do things he was not able to do.
The narrator/protagonist could not understand his brother limited abilities because he was under the control of his pride. However, he did realize that after the death of his brother which was too late. The experience he had made him feel guilty for the rest of his life. It sounds like feels miserable whenever he remembers the story. It’s obvious to the reader that the protagonist at the beginning of the story was a mean child who couldn’t think of anyone but himself through his words and actions.
While at the end of the story, the protagonist was ailing and feeling guilty for what he did, similarly, that can be noticed in his direct statements and actions. That experience surely had left an impact in the protagonist’s life. To sum up, since the characters are the most important element, characterization techniques play an essential role in creating a better understanding of a story. Besides that, different kinds of techniques can be used to characterize in one story.
For example, in James Joyce’s Araby, the narrator depended on the character’s thoughts and reactions as techniques of characterization, whereas in James Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis, the narrator used the character’s words actions to characterize it. Through characterization we could recognize the conflict as well as identify the changes that happened to the protagonist throughout the story, and that shows the importance of characterization. Citation: Hamadi, Tahir: DeAngelis Angelica, an Introduction to the Short Story. Arab Open University, 2008.