Tag: physicality

The Role of Physicality in Characterization

The roles that physicality and adornment play in the characterization of persons within a novel is something interesting we see in both The Invisible Man and The Sympathizer. Both novels bring up the question of how much significance does a character’s physical appearance play in defining who they are and how they are seen in and outside the novel.  We are not really told what the narrator in The Sympathizer usually wears; we can assume that he wears traditional 70s American clothing (jeans and a t-shirt maybe?), but we can’t be sure. This trait is not important for our understanding of the novel until the character puts on something that is out of the ordinary. We saw this in The Invisible Man when the narrator puts on a big hat and sunglasses and is repeatedly mistaken for a man named Rinehart. In Chapter 16 of The Sympathizer when the narrator murders Sonny, he switches from jeans into a “blue polo shirt,” “khakis and loafers,” and a “wig, cap, and glasses” (277). Bon gives him all these adornments so that the narrator will look “a white man” (277) so he can leave Sonny’s apartment inconspicuously. The narrator says, “To me I still looked like me,” but to everyone else who does not know what he looks like, they will not be able to tell that he is wearing a disguise. I found this passage interesting in comparison with the invisible man because we are never told what these two narrators really look like. We know their race, but that’s it, and the first time that we have probably thought about what exactly they look like is when they are disguising themselves to look like someone else. This leads me to believe that physical appearance does not have to play a huge role in characterization; we can still attach ourselves to and relate to a faceless character, which is very interesting to me since, I think, we are such visual creatures. We like to put faces to names, and I must say that I was glad to have even just that little sketch of the narrator on the front of my book for reference.

Physical Development and it’s Impact on Character Development

In the first section of the Autumn chapter, the narrator Claudia describes the incident of her sister experiencing her first period and as a result is now different than them, as “a real person who was ministratin’ was somehow sacred. She was different from us now- grown-up-like.” (32). While Pecola might have achieved physical development before her sisters, her personality does not seem any more “grown up like” in the later chapters for today than it did prior ti that experience, nor does she seem much more “grown up” than her sisters, despite them claiming that she now is. Oftentimes in novels it feels like markers of physical development: reaching puberty or getting a first grey hair etc. correspond with some sort of personal development, but here it does not feel that way, at least not too much.

Image in the novel

The medium by which Fun Home is told is a strange one. It is a self entitled comic, or “tragicomic” on the front cover, and the back cover refers to it as a “graphic memoir”. There are certain elements of the story that change when presented as images with sparse text captions than the bricks of text that typically compose a novel. Some things are gained by adding visuals, for example Bechdel could describe her father’s indifferent and cavalier attitude towards the cadavers, which she does mention, but with the cartoons she can demonstrate how his face and body language is no different expression over a dead body than he does with his family. She could spend chapters upon chapters, if it were written as a text , to describe things: like the house can be represented in a single panel which would’ve taken pages upon pages of writing to get all the specific details of her dad’s excessive collective and restorative efforts, However things are also lost by transferring over to this visual relationship, such as the concept of movement and physical senses besides sight. It’s much harder to express dialogue but easier to demonstrate non verbal cues. I think one important aspect of character then, would be the physical form in which it was created