The development of a character on paper is key to being able to create that character on stage. The development of character on paper is also key to understanding it in our imaginations. I read and understand stories and novels much the same way that I read a play script…through character analysis.
I believe that understanding characters in a short story, or any form of fiction for that matter, is essential to many reader’s abilities to grasp and enjoy the work.
I know in my own life I cannot connect to the plot of a story without the aid of a character. It is how the characters deal with the plot twists and turn that help emerse me in the story and mentally visualize what the story is about. Likewise, I visualize the setting through the eyes of the character. It is the character and his or her response to their environment that is the backbone of the story.
We see a shining example of this idea in Guy de Maupassant’s "The Necklace." The main character, Mathilde Loisel, is an incredibly complex character. One of the most interesting things about this woman is the fact that we can easily create, in our imaginations a "life before" this story for her and yet no dialogue describes that life. It is this past life that Mathilde’s perception of it that is the catalyst for everything that happens in this story.
This is the story of a woman who allows her bitterness and resentment to take her along a pathway of pain and misery. I think the key to understanding this character is to analyze what we know about her past and apply it to her reactions to her present. Mathilde’s problems start even before the beginning of the story. Her obvious bitterness and di...
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...because of her pride and belief that she deserves better than she gets out of life, that she learned nothing through her ordeal. What could have made her a better person has only made her harder.
Looking at Mathilde’s character is difficult because you can approach her from many angles. One could see her as simply a misguided soul, or as I have described her more self-centered and self-occupied. In any case the key to understanding Mathilde is, as I’ve said before, examining her childhood. I find it incredible that something that is not even a part of the story, on paper, is the driving force behind the main character and indeed, I believe, the plot.
Maupassant, Guy de. “The Necklace.” [First published 1884.] Rpt. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.
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