"It's written that way"

Tarja Rainio vierran at saunalahti.fi
Sun Jul 9 18:54:05 EDT 2000


on 9.7.2000 17:11, Britta Koch at bkoch at rz.uni-osnabrueck.de wrote:

Such an insightful post, thanks Britta! I've also noticed that I sometimes
fight against the way I'm expected to think when I read a novel, but then, I
don't always notice when I'm manipulated to think through a certain point of
view when reading a book or watching a film or a tv-program. I usually only
take notice of the most blatant pov's that contradict with mine, I'm not
really that analytic an observer or a reader.

> In the course of a seminar on Jane Austen's books, where we read all
> but "Northanger Abbey", I noticed that when you read so much Austen in
> one go, you can nearly lose hope in humanity! There's at most 4 clever,
> good people, and all the rest are foolish, stupid, mean, are whatever.
> And Austen's portraying them in her unique way makes them seem even
> worse! I was thinking "I hope I'm not one of the stupid/foolish
> /whatever ones...", but then again, it's written that way! There are
> more "good" people than in those books, and even though there are more
> than enough of the "bad" ones, the qualities of people are more mixed
> in real life.

I think, the case with Austen (and several other authors who do this also)
is to accentuate the humanity, cleverness, and all-over likefulness of her
main characters. It's true there are plenty of stupid and laughable figures,
as for example Mr. Collins in "Pride and Prejudice" or several others,  but
I think her craft was such that she never used them unnecessarily. They were
always there to somehow further the plot or to accentuate the character
traits of the main characters etc. IMHO, this is an age-old trick: include
someone really stupid/bad and it will make the "better" characters look
really intelligent/good.

Real people *are* more mixed, but in writing a novel (especially at Austen's
time) it may have been more conventional to resort to types and
counter-types. I think her genius was in creating several very real
characters, good or bad, though the bad ones may sometimes have been more
stereotypic/cardboardy than the good ones.

> But you really have to think about the fact that author's make the fate
> for their characters, or else you forget it.

How true you are!

Best,
Tarja

p.s. As an active frequenter of the Republic of Pemberley -web site
(www.pemberley.com) I just had to defend her =).

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