Imagining Characters

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 7 2012 @ 2:28pm

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Peter Mendelsund guides you:

A thought experiment: Picture your mother; now picture your favorite literary character. (Or: picture your home. Then picture Howard’s End.) The difference between your mother’s after-image and that of a literary character you love, is that the more you concentrate, the more your mother might come into focus. A character will not reveal herself. In fact the closer you look, the farther away she gets. … Literary characters are physically vague—they have only a few features, and these features don’t matter. Or, these features only matter in that they help narrow a character’s meaning. But these features don’t help us picture a character. Characters are ciphers. And narratives are made richer by omission.