The novel, after all, is not a moral fable or parable; it is not our job to like or dislike characters in fiction, or make judgments about their worth, or learn from them how to live. We can do that with real people and, if we like, figures from history. They are for moralists to feast on. A novel is a pattern and it is our job to notice how the textures were woven and the tones put in place. This is not to insist that a character in fiction is merely a verbal construct and bears no relation to the known world. It is rather to suggest that the role of a character in a novel is never simple. A novel isn’t a piece of ethics or sociology. It is a release of certain energies and a dramatisation of how these energies might be controlled and given shape. Characters in fiction are determined by the pattern, and they determine the pattern in turn.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Breaching the peace, lightening the load
At the LRB, Colm Tóibín on the importance of aunts (he moves to this point from an argument about Austen's treatment of Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park):