Sympathy for Characters in Dream Life and Real Life and The Half-Brothers

Sympathy for Characters in Dream Life and Real Life and The Half-Brothers

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Sympathy for Characters in Dream Life and Real Life and The Half-Brothers

The two texts begin very differently, Schreiner, in Dream Life and
Real Life, immediately begins to build a sense of sympathy in the
reader. She begins repetitive use of adjectives like "little" and
"alone". On the other hand, Elizabeth Gaskell, in the Half-Brothers,
is far more implicit, throughout the story, in her use of language to
describe Gregory. She focuses more on the ill treatment of others
toward him; how he is described as "stupid" and "sulky". Gregory
himself speaks very little throughout the story, though in my own
opinion, he is the main character. We feel sympathy for him, and the
verbal abuse he receives from others, as opposed to the obvious
physicality of Jannita's mistreatment in 'Dream Life and Real Life';
"He asked her why her feet were bare, and what the marks on her back

There are however, many similarities between the two texts, and indeed
the two characters. Both are quite alone in the world, having lost
their parents early on in their lives. 'The Half-Brothers' begins with
an account of the birth of Gregory, and the death of his mother, and
preceding it, his father's. Jannita's mother is never mentioned, but
we are told of her father's death very near to the beginning of the
story. As a result of these tragic losses, neither child has anyone to
look after them, and both have to endure the treatment of their
respective 'families'. They are both very vulnerable, and this is an
attribute that becomes very easy for the reader to sympathise with.

Affection for each character is shown in some form, however. Gregory
has a dog, Lassie, whom he looks after, and attends him in his
shepherding duties. The animal is treated just as badly by the others
in the story, as Gregory is, "Partly for its own demerits, partly
because it belonged to Gregory".

Jannita herds angora goats for her masters, and while she is sleeping,

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one of the kids comes up and licks her cheek, though Schreiner
explains this. It is not out of affection for the child, but for the
salt of her dried tears. Despite this, the goats are still a part of
her life, yet as with Gregory, they are not human friends. It is
pitiful that neither child has anyone to talk to, or confide in. They
are truly alone.

Neither Jannita nor Gregory however, is described as being ill
natured. Their characters are in fact described as something much to
the contrary. The narrator describes Gregory briefly at a point
nearing the end of 'The Half-Brothers'; "He was not a cross lad; he
was patient and good-natured, and would try to do a kind turn for
anyone, eve if they had been scolding or cuffing him not a minute
before". This is a very effective technique used by Gaskell, as when
we read this, we cannot help but wonder why he is so mis-treated, when
he I quite clearly a good person.

The same is evident in the case of Jannita, though the description is
a little more implicit. Towards the start of the story, Jannita falls
asleep whilst she is supposed to be watching her goats. Much to her
misfortune, three men nearby take one of the goats. When she returns
to the farmhouse, the Boer asks if she has been asleep, as he notices
the missing sheep. Implicit clues prior to this are given about the
physical punishments Jannita receives from her masters, and most
people would lie, to save themselves the pain. Jannita however, owns
up, knowing what is going to happen, she is also a good person, and is
not shown to be ill natured in any way. Nor, is she described at any
point as being mischievous.

The endings of both stories are very similar in some ways, and yet
there are clear notable differences also. The main difference, in my
opinion, is the situation of the characters change in the course of
the text - Jannita escapes her masters, and is free, Gregory stays
where he is, and his situation does not change. In the case of
Gregory, he leaves silently to rescue his half-brother, the narrator,
from the coming storm. He leaves of his own free will, nobody
requested him to go. His decision results in his ultimate sacrifice;
his life. The story follows much the same pattern in the case of
Jannita. She overhears an evil plot by the men whom at the beginning
of the text killed her goat, to burn her master's house, killing all
inside, and plundering money and other goods. She has no reason to go
to the aid of her old masters, but though she is free, though she
would have been safe had she only left them alone, she runs to the
farmhouse, to warn the very people who abused and tormented her for so
long. As with Gregory, she pays for her goodness with her own life.

The knowledge that both characters were good and kind, and had no
obligation to make any sacrifice, went to the aid of such selfish and
cruel people, adds to the extent of sympathy that the reader feels for
them. The story raises issues of self-doubt within the reader; would
you do the same? Could you bring yourself to help someone who was so
cruel and hurtful towards you?

I feel that both Gaskell and Schreiner are highly successful in
creating sympathy for the main characters, and they achieve this in
many ways. Their styles are very different; Schreiner being far more
explicit than Gaskell, and the structure of their stories is also very
varied. It is interesting to see that whist both texts are about such
different things; 'Dream Life and Real Life' being far more focused on
Jannita's escape from her tormenting masters, and 'Half-Brothers'
centreing more around the relationships between Gregory and the other
characters, they come to two very similar ends.
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