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Foreigners generally consider Americans much more materialistic than Americans are likely to consider themselves. Americans would like to think that their material objects are just the natural benefits which always result from hard work and serious intent—a reward, they think, which all people could enjoy, were they as industrious and hard-working as Americans.

But by any standard, Americans are materialistic. This means that they value and collect more material objects than most people would ever dream of owning. It also means they give higher priority to obtaining, maintaining and protecting their material objects than they do in developing and enjoying interpersonal relationships.


The modern American typically owns:

· One or more color television sets

· An electric hair dryer

· An electronic calculator

· A tape recorder and record player

· A clothes-washer and dryer

· A vacuum cleaner

· A power lawn mower for cutting grass

· A refrigerator, stove and dishwasher

· One or more automobiles

· A telephone

· Many also own a personal computer


Since Americans value newness and innovation, they sell or throw away their possessions frequently and replace them with newer ones. A car may be kept for only two or three years, a house for five or six before trading it in for another one.



Kohls, L. Robert. Survival Kit for Overseas Living. 2nd ed. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1984.





An image in art is a subjective reflection of reality. It is affected by the writer's power of imagination. Though every image is inspired by life, the writer reflects reality as he sees it. Moreover êðîìå òîãî, he may create images of scenes which he could have never observed (as in historical novels).

An image is, on the one hand, a generalization and is never a comp­lete identity of a person, thing or phenomenon. There is always some­thing left out by the writer, and something that is emphasized or even exaggerated ïðåóâåëè÷åííûé. On the other hand, an image in art is concrete with its individual peculiarities.

Since images in art reflect the writer's subjective attitude to them, they are always emotive. Literary art appeals to the reader through all the senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. In the reader's mind images call up not only visual pictures and other sense impressions, they also arouse áóäèòü feelings, such as warmth, compassion, affection, delight, or dislike, disgust, resentment.

Our emotional responses îòâåò are directed by the words with which the author creates his images. This explains why writers are so particular about the choice of words. However, when we read fiction, it is not the words that we actually respond to, it is the images which these words create that arouse the reader's response. This does not mean that word­ing in literary art is irrelevant íåóìåñòíûé. Any change of a word affects the reader's response, as words may evoke sense impressions.


He was a stout man.


"His features were sunk into fatness...

His neck was buried in rolls of fat. He sat in his chair... his great belly thrust forward..." (S. Maugham. Red)


The images created by figures of speech in S.Maugham's description call up a visual picture of a concrete fat man and evoke in the reader definite feelings, including those of antipathy and even aversion îòâðàùåíèå. Where­as "He was a stout man" does not arouse negative feelings.

As Joseph Conrad puts it, a writer creates images by means of the commonplace words that we all use, "the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage ... My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you

feel — it is before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything.'

It must be noted that the images of a literary work form a system, which comprises a hierarchy of images, beginning with micro-images (formed by a word or a combination of words) and ending with synthe­tic images (formed by the whole literary work). Between the lowest level (the micro-images) and the highest level (the synthetic images) there are images which may be termed "extended ðàñòÿíóòûé images".

In the story The Pawnbroker's Shop by M.Spark the scene of Mrs.Cloote's examination of the articles brought to her pawnshop affords a vivid illustration of the hierarchy of images. "The examination would be conducted with utter intensity, seeming to have its sensitive point, its assessing faculty, in her long nose ... She would not smell the thing actually, but it would appear to be her nose which calculated and finally judged .... A list of the object's defects would proceed like a ticker tape from the mouth of Mrs. Jan Cloote." The micro-images of the separate peculiarities of Mrs.Cloote constitute an extended image of a feature of her personality. Whereas the synthetic image of Mrs.Jan Cloote is comprised of a whole series of micro-images and extended images which the whole story contains.

In literature attention is by far centered on man, human character and human behaviour. That explains why the character-image (synthetic image) is generally considered îñíîâàííûé to be the main element of a literary work; the images of things and landscape are subordinated to the character-image. Thus, landscape-images are generally introduced to describe the setting, to create a definite mood or atmosphere. Yet even a landscape-image, as well as an animal-image, may become the central character of the story. For instance, Nature is the main antagonist of the major cha­racter in The Old Man and the Sea by E.Hemingway or again animal-images are the central characters in The Jungle Book by R.Kipling.

Character-images are both real and unreal. They are real in the sense that they can be visualized, you easily see them act, you hear them talk, you understand and believe them. They are unreal in the sense that they are imaginary. Even if they are drawn from life and embody the most typical features of human nature, even if they are images of historical people, they are not identical with them, and are products of the writer's imagination. In The Summing Up S.Maugham writes, "I have been blamed because I have drawn my characters from living persons ... But people are all elusive, too shadowy, to be copied, and they are also too ... contradictory. The writer doesn't copy his origi­nals; he takes what he wants from them, a few traits that have caught his attention." Nevertheless characters in literature often reveal so much of human nature and seem so real, that the readers tend to forget that they are fictions.

In most stories one character is clearly central and dominates the sto­ry from the beginning up to the end. Such a character is generally called the main, central, or major character, or the protagonist. The main character may also be called hero or h e r o i n e, if he or she deserves çàñëóæèâàòü to be called so.

The antagonist is the personage opposing the protagonist or hero.

The villain çëîäåé is the character with marked negative features.

Sometimes in a literary work the writer will give us two characters with distinctly opposing features, we then say that one character serves as a foil êîíòðàñò to the other. The foil is so different that the important characteristics of the opposite personage are thereby sharply accentuat­ed. Thus a mean person will act as a foil to a kind and generous man. It is through the use of the foil that the contrast between the characters is seen more clearly. Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson are designed as foils for each other. In J.B.Priestley's novel Angel Pavement Mr. and Mrs.Smeeth are also foils, as they are distinctly opposed personalities. Mr.Smeeth's constant apprehension and fear of losing his job is cont­rasted to Mrs.Smeeth's jolly nature and thoughtlessness, his worries about the insecurity of his family and his desire to save money for a rainy day are emphasized by the contrast with Mrs.Smeeth's extrava­gance and passion to spend immediately all the money she gets.

When a character expresses the author's viewpoint directly, he is said to be the author's mouthpiece. Dr.Watson is considered to be Conan Doyle's mouthpiece.

If a character is developed round one or several features, he becomes a type or a caricature. A type is characterized by qualities that are typical of a certain social group or class. A caricature is a charac­ter so exaggerated that he appears ridiculous íåëåïûé and distorted, yet recog­nizable.

M.Twain's story Mistaken Identity contains masterfully created ca­ricatures. The conductor's and the porter's slavish politeness and eager­ness to dance attendance on a man whom they took for a general, are exaggerated to the utmost. Their "bows and a perfect affluence of smiles", the way they approached "oozing politeness from every pore", Tom's smiling face which was "thrust in at the crack of the door" create a grotesque caricature on servility to men of rank and wealth. It is contrasted to vanity, cocksureness and satisfaction at being treated servilely, the features round which the narrator's character is developed,

Characters may be simple (f1at) or complex (well-rounded). Simple characters are constructed round a single trait ÷åðòà . Complex characters undergo ïîäâåðãàòüñÿ change and growth, reveal various sides of their personalities. Hamlet is a complex character, as he is brave and hesitant, sensitive and unyielding. Contradictory features within a cha­racter make it true-to-life and convincing.

The main character is most relevant çíà÷èìûé in a literary work, since it is through his fate that the message is conveyed. The minor characters are subordinate, they are generally introduced to reveal some aspects of the main character, or his relationship with people.

Complete descriptions of absolutely all the actions, thoughts, feel­ings of the characters in fiction are impossible and unnecessary. The writer selects only those that have special meaning in relation to the message of the story. Moreover, a full and photographic description is often substituted by a detail. Depending on the value which details have in fiction, one should distinguish between the so-called artistic details and particularities.

The artistic detail is always suggestive âûçûâàòü ìûñëè. It therefore has a larger meaning than its surface meaning, as it implies a great deal more than is directly expressed by it. An artistic detail acquires expressive force and has both direct and indirect meaning. It is a poetic representa­tion of a whole scene. In this sense an artistic detail may be treated as a metonymic expression of the whole. An artistic detail, just as any micro-image, is stimulating to the imagination.

A few artistic details may suggest a whole life-story. Thus, the "swollen" face, feet and hands with "fingers worked to the bone", which Priestley mentions about Mrs Cross (in Angel Pavement) tell us just as much of her hard life as a whole page of her life-story would. The sharpness of those artistic details stimulates the reader's imagina­tion and creates the image of a woman exhausted by a life full of hard­ships.

At the same time an artistic detail contributes to individualization and verisimilitude ïðàâäîïîäîáèå. It creates the sense of reality, the sense of getting to know a concrete real individuality with its specific characteristics. An artistic detail is therefore both implicative and individualizing.

In fiction not all details are artistic details. There often occur details that cannot be treated as poetic representations of the whole (such as the colour of the eyes of a character, the time at which he left his home, etc.) They serve to add something new about a character, or place, or event. Such details are called particularities. They are inci­dental in the sense that it is difficult (or impossible) to explain the writer's choice of this rather than that colour, or time, etc. Nevertheless, particularities are not absolutely irrelevant. They contribute to verisi­militude, as they help to create a realistic picture of a person or event. Particularities are used for representing reality in a concrete form.

Therefore, an artistic detail is significant beyond its literal meaning and has expressive force, whereas a particularity signifies only what is directly expressed by it and has no implication. However, both artistic details and particularities contribute to verisimilitude and credibility of the story, as they individualize, particularize and specify the characters, objects and events, thus representing actual life in all its diversity. They encourage acceptance on the part of the reader and increase convincing­ness of what is described.

One of the most essential factors in literature is the convincingness of the characters. Their behaviour, thoughts and feelings will arouse the reader's response if he believes them.

"The foundation of good fiction is character-creating and nothing else ... Style counts; plot counts; originality of outlook counts. But none of these counts anything like so much as the convincingness of the characters. If the characters are real, the novel will have a chance; if they are not, oblivion will be its portion ...” (A.Bennett) The characters may be described from different aspects: physical, emotional, moral, spiritual, social. The description of the different aspects of a character is known as characterization. There are two main types of characterization: direct and indirect. When the author rates the character himself, it is direct characterization. For example, when J.Priestley says that Golspie "was dogmatic, rough, domineering, and was apt to jeer and sneer", he uses the direct method of characterization. Direct characterization may be made by a character in the story. But when the author shows us the character in action, lets us hear him, watch him and evaluate him for ourselves, the author uses the indirect method of characterization.

The various means of characterization are as follows:

1. Presentation of the character through action.

A character in fiction is not just a static portrait, he acts. Since action, movement, change, development always occur in fiction, action serves as the main means of characterization. People are generally judged by their deeds. Actions are the most effective means of character presen­tation. They may reveal the character from different aspects.

For example, the actions of Matfield in Angel Pavement show that physically she is strong, healthy, energetic, active, spirited; emotionally she is bitter, dissatisfied, depressed; in spite of her more or less satisfactory education, mentally she is a mediocrity (though she fancies herselt sophisticated and shrewd); morally she is honest, strong-willed-, spiri­tually Matfield is shallow as she is doped by cheap literature and is given to illusions, all her ideals are affected by the adventure stories she is fond of.

Actions include small gestures. In Chapter I Matfield's resoluteness, decisiveness and dissatisfaction are suggested by her gestures: "... she flung down a library book, ... rummaged in her bag, ... said "Curse! ", then closed the bag with a sharp snap, seized her gloves and marched them over to her coat".

Action includes a thought, a word, a decision, an impulse, and a whole event. For example, Matfield's decision to have a weekend with the brigandish Golspie is an action, her impulse to make a change in her life is also an action. Each of these actions characterizes a definite aspect of her personality.

2. Speech characteristics.

Speech characteristics reveal the social and intellectual standing of the character, his age, education and occupation, his state of mind and feelings, his attitude and relationship with his interlocutors.

When analysing speech characteristics, one should be alert for:

(1) style markers, such as (a) markers of official style ("I presume", "I beg your pardon", etc.); (2) markers of informal conversational style-, contracted forms, colloquialisms, elliptical sentences, tag const­ructions (as "you know"), initiating signals (as "Well", "Oh"), hesita­tion pauses, false starts — all of which normally occur in spontaneous colloquial speech and often remain unnoticed, but in "fictional conver­sation" they may acquire a certain function, as they create verisimili­tude and may indicate some features of the speaker's character, his state of mind and his attitude to others;

(3) markers of the emotional state of the character: emphatic inver­sion, the use of emotionally coloured words, the use of breaks-in-the-nar-rative that stand for silence (e.g. "and I asked her if she'd rather I ... didn't get married", "and there 1 stayed in the middle of the road ... star­ing" — the pause lays emphasis on the words that follow the pause), the tailing off into silence which reflects deep emotions or doubt, the use of italics, interjections; hesitation pauses and false starts if they are fre­quent may be a sign of nervousness, irresoluteness or great excitement;

(4) attitudinal markers-, words denoting attitudes (as "resent"; "despise", "hate", "adore" etc.),intensifiers(as "very", "absolutely"etc.);

(4) markers of the character's educational level: bookish words, rough words, slang, vulgarisms, deviations from the standard;

(5) markers of regional and dialectal speech, which define the spea er as to his origin, nationality and social standing: foreign words, lo­cal words, graphons;

(6) markers of the character's occupation-, terms, jargonisms-,

(7) markers of the speaker's idiolect (i.e. his individual speech pecu­liarities), which serve as a means of individualization and verisimili­tude.

If we turn to Mistaken Identity, we can see how skilfully M.Twain used speech peculiarities as a means of characterization. The markers of informal conversational style ("Years ago I arrived one day ...". "ask­ed ... if I could have some poor little corner somewhere", "a couple of armchairs" etc.), the markers of dialectal speech ("dey" for "there", "dat" for "that", "sah" for "sir" etc., which are typical of "Black English"), the numerous markers of the emotional state of the charac­ters and their attitudes to one another contribute to creating verisimi­litude. The reader gets the impression of hearing the characters and witnessing the scenes. Besides, the reader gets all the necessary informa­tion about the characters-, their feelings, mood, relations with one ano­ther, their social and intellectual standing, and even their origin.

In one of his pamphlets M.Twain wrote that conversation in fiction should "sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and show a relevancy, and remain in the neighbourhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say." (M. T w a i n). The story Mistaken Identity may well serve as an illustration of all the requirements that the writer sets. His characters are well-conceived not only due to their speech charac­teristics, but also due to the exactness in the choice and presentation of their actions. They are defined in full accordance with his principle: characters should be "so clearly defined that the reader can tell before­hand what each will do in a given emergency."

3. Psychological portrayal and analysis of motive.

The penetration into the mind of the character, description of his mental processes and subtle psychological changes that motivate his actions, the penetration into his thoughts — all that is an effective means of characterization that writers very often resort to. Priestley's Angel Pavement, abounds in illustrations of psychological portrayal. For example, the description of Miss Matfield's state of mind when she realized at the station that she had been waiting for Golspie in vain, standing there with a suitcase and a cheap imitation of a wedding ring in her bag, while Golspie was miles away from London "not caring if she spent the rest of her life in Victoria Station. Never before had she felt such bitter contempt for herself. She could have cried and cried, not because he had gone and she would probably never set eyes on him again, but because his sudden indifference, at this time of all times, left her feeling pitiably small and silly. The misery of it was like the on­slaught of some unexpected, terrible disease. Her mangled pride bled and" ached inside her, so that she felt faint." This description of her psycho­logical state and thoughts not only reveals the shame and humiliation that she experienced, it also characterizes Matfield as a sensitive creature, capable of experiencing profound and acute feelings.

The psychological state of a character is generally revealed by means of inner represented speech in the form of either free indirect speech or free direct speech. In the following example J.Priestley resorts to free in­direct speech to reveal Turgis's state when he was dismissed: "His job was gone. What could he do? A bit of typing and clerking, that was all, and anybody could do that; even girls would do it, ... just as well as he would ... Something had gone wrong. Where, how had it gone wrong? He could be as happy as anybody, if only he had a chance to be; and why hadn't he a chance to be? ". His thoughts reveal his despair, his awareness of the injustices that were done to him. It also reveals his ability to think clearly and to realize how unfair life was to him.

4. Description of the outward appearance, the portrayal of a charac­ter.

In fiction there exist some relationships between the character and his appearance. Thus, features as "hard eyes" or a "cruel mouth like a scar" create the picture of a man who is capable of mean and wicked actions. The writer often marks some suitable feature in the character's portrait which is suggestive of his nature. In literature physi­cal portayal often suggests moral, mental or spiritual characteristics. For example, Turgis from Angel Pavement — a weak-willed day-dreamer who is doped by trashy Hollywood films - is introduced to the reader in the following way: "This was Turgis, the clerk ... a thinnish, awkward young man, with ... poor shoulders, ... a small, still babyish mouth, usually open, ... a drooping rather than retreating chin. ... the faint grey film that seemed to cover and subdue him ..." All that suggests that he is feeble, defenceless, irresolute, weak-willed, unintelligent. Whereas Miss Matfield's description is as follows: "What they saw was a girl of twenty-seven or twenty-eight, or even twenty-nine, with decided eyebrows, a smouldering eye, ... a mouth that was a discontented crimson curve, and a firm round chin that was ready to double itself at any moment." All that suggests a resolute, decisive personage, though dissatisfied with her life.

5. Description of the world of things that surround the character. The character's room, clothing and other belongings may also serve as a means of characterization. For example, "the blue serge suit that bagged and sagged and shone, ... the pulpy look about his shoes ... which soaked up the rain" characterize Turgis as a miserable creature, who lives in need, with no one to care for him. It adds to his portrait and helps the reader to understand the character. Or again, the description of the books that Miss Matfield was so fond of — "the exotic and adventurous tales" with "coral reefs, jungles and a strong, adventurous brigandish hero" is a key to understanding her idea of happiness. It ex­plains why Mr Golspie claimed her attention, it reveals that she was also doped by the cheap literature which she so often turned to, and that she was not at all sophisticated as she tried to appear.

Domestic interiors of the setting are sometimes treated as metonymic, or metaphoric, expressions of character. "A man's house is an extension of himself. Describe it and you have described him ... These houses ex­press their owners; they affect as atmosphere those who must live in them ..."

6. The use of a foil.

The writer may introduce a foil as a means of characterization. The foil accentuates the opposed features of the character he is contrasted to.

7. The naming of characters.

The naming of characters may also serve as a means of characteriza­tion. The name may be deliberately chosen to fit a certain character. Take, for example, Fielding's Sir Benjamin Backbite, or Dickens's Mr. and Mrs. Murdstone (murder 4- stone), or O'Henry's Shark Dodson. Such names are suggestive, as they bring into play the associations which the words they are composed of have. For instance, Shark has acquired symbolic meaning. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1983) defines "shark" as follows: "a person clever at getting money from others in dishonest or merciless ways, as by lending money at high rates". The use of a proper name to express a general idea is called antonomasia.

All the means of characterization writers resort to, enable the reader to visualize and understand the characters, to think, feel and worry with them as they face their problems, to trace the changes and growth in their personalities.


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 5796

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