Identifying with characters, with Robin Hobb Spoilers

Ven vendersleighc at
Tue Dec 2 21:41:48 EST 2003

Charlie wrote

I think perhaps 'identifying with' is too broad a

term for something that
may or may not include any of the following:

a) caring about what happens to a character, just

as one might about a
friend, or (ideally) any real person
b) noticing a similarity (literal or 
metaphorical) between the character's
situation and one's own
c) noticing a similarity between the character's 
personality and one's own
d) approving of the character and the character's


Nice breakdown: a and b are what I was mainly
talking about, continuing to use Robin Hobb's
Fitz as an example, the metaphorical similarity
of aspects of my childhood situation is pretty
strong and I think that's what is behind my
feeling of immersion in this character in
particular. C I'm not so sure about, at least
insofar as  reading about characters like oneself
can lead to unpleasant self revelation as much as
mirrored admiration. D is quite a complicated
issue, I don't so much approve as sympathise -- I
can be aware of a character's flaws and find
excuses or forgiveness. As for their actions, the
reader usually knows more than the characters and
may well find themselves disapproving strongly. I
like this kind of book. 

Medium sized Spoiler For Robin Hobb: Farseer,
Liveship and Fool I and II, series. NB no spoiler
for Fool's Fate

In the third trilogy Fitz and other major
characters have a mission to find and destroy a
dragon. They think it is absolutely vital for the
continued prosperity of their country, political
stability etc and what's more they promised!
However from what we already know of the
situation from previous books as well as big
hints in the current series this is almost
certainly a really bad idea...........Hence my
reactionm is more anguish than approval. 

          END OF SPOILER
Melissa wrote

<Identifying with a character is the next level 
for me, and I define it as
seeing some aspect of the character's personality

or situation that I
understand at a gut level.  Either it's something

I've done or been, or
something that arouses great empathy within me, 
but somehow I can see myself
as that character or in that situation.  The 
thing is, I don't really see
this as more desirable than the other.  It's 
interesting, and intense, but
not better.>

Absolutely but I never said it was better,

The last level is overidentifying, and that's 
what I'd say happens with the
Mary Sue thing (only from the writer's 
perspective rather than the
reader's).  At that point, what happens to the 
character also happens to me.
This doesn't happen often and I'm glad of it, 
because it is not a good
thing.  It means that I can't approach the book 
objectively; I see events
and characters as they relate to "my" character 
and can't discuss them
rationally.  The last time this happened was with

_The Merlin Conspiracy_
because I overidentified with Roddy and ended up 
arguing with Jacob about

Arguments over characters  can be very revealing
I find. There's a 60s British film about a
downtrodden family rebelling against their
overbearing old fashioned father. It's a typical
of the time kitchen sink drama. One scene I
remember is where the Dad tries to insist his
youngest daughter eats the piece of mackerel she
has been served up for her tea. When he fails to
do so he demands that this same bit of fish is
the only thing going to be put in front of her at
every mealtime until she eats it. An epic battle
of wills ensues........ I watched this as a
teenager, me, my brother and my Mum were cheering
on the family against the father. I certainly saw
him as nothing but a nasty old tyrant. My Dad
became rather upset about this, which gave me a
bit to think about. Aah the generation


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