Discussion Questions: Characters, Coursework Example

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Coursework

“Voice” is essentially the author’s style, which ties in to tone, mood, and atmosphere used to create various elements of the story such as attitude, personality, and character. An author creates a voice that is believable by including elements of attitude, personality, and character from real life situations and applying these characteristics to characters in events that agree with the specific characteristics being used. Since characterization is an essential aspect of voice, it is necessary to understand what makes characterization effective in children’s literature. According to the week 3 reading “The Evolution of Characters and the Need for Characterization”, authors will usually attempt to create the main character of a story in the image of who they think the reader will be. Therefore, they typically characterize the main character as the same age as the reader, include concepts and themes that are aligned with the reader’s life, assign human qualities, and in modern literature, assign the racial characteristics of the target population (The Evolution of Characters and the Need for Characterization 1).

According to Perry Nodelman’s account “Liking and Not Liking Fantasy” in chapter 4 of the textbook, writers of children’s literature can “get away with what I see as a far more honest depiction of childhood life and thought” in fantasy (Stahl, 432). In doing so, fantasy writers like Nodelan adhere to a believable voice in their tales because the child recognizes the situations that the characters are experiencing. Although the story Pinocchio is a fantasy story about a puppet rather than a real boy, the concept of lying and getting in trouble for it hits home for many of these children readers. A quote that represents the realism of Pinocchio in the textbook is “Pinocchio threw himself to the ground and refused to walk any further” (Stahl, 441). While people believed he was doing so because his father mistreated him, Pinocchio refused to go home because he was ashamed about the lies he had made and the acts her had committed. It is common toddler behavior to act this way when they are facing difficult times. However, this example shows that it is better to face the repercussions and go home rather than to avoid returning home; in Pinocchio’s case, refusing to go home causes a lot of trouble for him throughout the rest of the story.

As demonstrated above, understanding child development is important to developing a realistic representation of character in children’s literature. According to “Expanding Viable Topics” in the week 3 lecture, “as theories about children have shifted and taken into account the main principles of educational theory, youngsters have been presented with a plethora of experiences and subjects that reflect their complex experiences” (Expanding Viable Topics 1). As a consequence, writers of children’s literature need to understand the development of their target audience to be able to create fictional accounts that their readers are able to relate with. Frequently, these accounts will mimic real life situations that the children go through, such as needing to go to school and making friends. In the case of Pinocchio discussed above, this appeal relates to the behavior of the character particularly because children who read Pinocchio are likely to behave in a similar manner.

Genre plays a major role in constraining characterization because it limits the qualities that the author is free to ascribe to the character. In addition, these characteristics are ascribed in different ways for genres such as the graphic novel, fantasy, and historical realism. In particular, the limiting ability to assign a character a specific race is impacted. “The Evolution of Characters and the Need for Characterization” discusses the importance of race to the reader in stories and notes that multicultural tales are typically more effective for readers to relate to because the story integrates their unique customs and traditions (The Evolution of Characters and the Need for Characterization 2). Historical realism novels, for example, limit the characteristics that could be assigned to characters because it is expected that the author uses personality traits and story events that would be in align with the specific time period being represented. The same issue exists for authors who write books that are preferentially meant for one gender to enjoy over the other. In Cinderella, many of the characters conform to the behavior that was expected of women living in a French monarchy. Cinderella applies to many young girls because it shows that even with intense societal expectations in place, one could still lead a happy life. In order to demonstrate this lesson, the original writer of Cinderella in addition to those who rewrite the tale, are unable to change many elements of characterization in the story. To educate the children on this point, there must be evil characters who oppose Cinderella, a man that she is in love with that can give her happiness, and she must be hardworking so that the reward seems more just.

An author can compensate for issues of characterization restriction and genre by selecting a genre that allows them more artistic expression. While Cinderella is set in a specific time period, the author could easily change the needs for characterization by altering the world that his or her character resides in. This could include switching the time period to the modern world, the location to a different country, or creating a new fantastical realm in which these characterization rules don’t apply.

Works Cited

“Expanding Viable Topics”. Week 3 Lecture. Children’s Literature. AIO.

Stahl, J D, Tina L. Hanlon, and Elizabeth L. Keyser. Crosscurrents of Children’s Literature: An Anthology of Texts and Criticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

“The Evolution of Characters and the Need for Characterization “. Week 3 Lecture. Children’s Literature. AIO.

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