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Introducing A Character

Hanan A.


Introducing a Character

Introducing a character resembles the first impression of meeting someone, it is a very significant element of a novel. “Character is arguably the most important single component of the novel” (Lodge 67). There are multiple approaches to introducing a character according to David Lodge as well as numerous types of character and various kind of ways of portraying them. The well-known representations of a character is major and minor characters. There’s also a continuation with flat and round characters, characters rendered from inside their mind, and characters out looked through the viewers on the outside.

In older fiction, the more familiar way to introducing a character is by giving a physical description, which is highly selective and biographical summary. Physical description will reveal the character’s condition in a novel health wise, how financially stable, etc. More examples that uncover the description of a character is their clothes, class, and life-style. However modern novelists take a different kind of approach, they favor letting the character emerge gradually, diversified, or actually conveyed, by action and speech as mentioned by David Lodge. Imagination plays a big role to the readers, when the author describes the features of a character’s hand and face the rest is left to the viewer to visualize the remains of the picture.

The novel “Paradise of the Blind” written by Duong Thu Huong the first U.S edition was published in 1993. It tells a story of Hang one of the major characters involved and her mother Que. It takes place during the Vietnamese war and how their life state was unpredictable due to a government that disregards Vietnamese culture and family morals which causes them to struggle with keeping their dignity in track. Throughout the novel it shows the intuitive blooming progression of Vietnam.

From start to finish Hang is being introduced to emerge gradually in the novel, the more she changes the more you understand her character.  She follows the Vietnamese traditions; a notable aspect is family. No matter what makes Hang uncomfortable or if it is something she does not like you will see her character taking initiative and coming forward for her family especially her mother Que. This is shown in the beginning of the novel. Que’s only brother was feeling ill, Hang received a letter that gave her this notice. Hang did not want to take the train and visit him, she was feeling quiet sick herself with a fever, headache, shoulders hunched, fatigue, and homesick. But nonetheless she knew her mother would have been disappointed and sorrowful if her only daughter did not come out. Hang’s uncle was the only man figure in her and mother’s life. Her father was an unknown figure to her, she grew up with only the bond with her mother. The author also described the clothes Hang and her roommate were wearing, this told the readers that Hang was in a rather poorer condition wearing a baggy shirt and then her roommate with the nice long night gown with her pricy record player. In the rest of the novel the finances of Hang and Que’s family shows more when the author continues speaking about how they’re living day by day. Hang is a student who does her best to help with her mom as a street vendor, with this job is unpredictable. You may also take notices that Hang changes throughout the novel when meeting new characters and with the modification of the country. For example when Aunt Tam comes along later on she follows her and listens to her out of respect, but perhaps she got so overwhelmed with everything going on that she did not seem to notice her mother felt neglected.

“To live with dignity, the important thing is never to despair. You give up once, and everything gives way. They say ginger root becomes stringy, but pungent with age. Unhappiness forges a woman, makes her selfless, compassionate” said Hang (Paradise of the Blind p.14). From her speech which is another form that describes a character, the reader can immediately take notice in her vocabulary and assume she is well educated or is trying to pursue an education. This gives more information about the character from her tone and her thoughts as mentioned by Lodge.

Hang’s development as a character also comes from her behaviors the first example her relationship with her mother is strong and she keeps her word to her. She was wanting to abandon her uncle but she gave up her selflessness for her mother. Brought by the Vietnamese culture her etiquettes with elders are very respectful. With the Madam Vera a minor character who was described as rude with no filter was speaking to Hang who would be quiet when spoken to and would listen to everything before walking away revelry. Growing up fatherless would explain some of Hang’s introverted behavior. Also without a father figure in her life Hang got bullied, this is an internal and external effect to her actions.

Every characteristic of Hang and Que explain their situation, themselves, and perhaps the upcoming pages or chapter of the novel. Duong Thu Huong develops the characters gradually and unfolds hints about their characteristics through description, speech, actions, and behavior. She then goes along with leaving the rest up to the readers imaginations and the attributes of the characters fits perfectly with what is going on with Vietnam at that particular moment. Introducing a character by an author is a very crucial part because they are telling the story through their eyes to give the reader the best understanding of the novel.

1 Comment

  1. danaayesh says:

    Personally, do you prefer having the characters introduced gradually through out the novel or described at the beginning only? Do you believe that Duong Thu Huong did the right thing by introducing the characters gradually?

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