Thursday, November 18, 2004

What is character?

Dickens has thrust characters under my nose as I am re-reading, after these many years, A Tale of Two Cities. Realizing I have no understanding of what comprises character, I am somewhat at a loss to really understand what he gives us with one of his greatest gifts. I see the range of characteristics he paints them with but am quite certain that is only a tangent of what he creates and/or evokes for our entertainment and erudition.

Certainly things such as strong, weak, fond, aggressive, modest, foolish, faithful, clever, talented, noble are all useful in categorizing but fall far short of the mark in being central to what he is presenting to us. Rather there seems to be something of that which is central to the nature of these people’s souls if that is indeed possible with literary creations.

In Dickens, the vivacity and peculiarity of character is perhaps his foremost trait. Also, everything seems to have a type of character, such as the passage of time for Dr. Manette, the whispering plane tree in their yard, the dress and accouterments of the wealthy in Monseigneur’s salon, the stones of the pavement where the wine keg fell and broke. To miss a sense of character, animate and inanimate, is almost to have wasted you time reading him.

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