3.2 Characterization Continued
As far as development of the characters is concerned, it is again possible to divide the critics into three groups, though not as evenly as before.
The first group consists of those who believe that no development takes place, the characters remaining static from beginning to end. The views of the two critics who take this position can be stated quite simply.
Graham 65 holds that the "rhythm, sentence structure and vocabulary of any one speaker do not change noticeably between childhood and middle age" (p. 95). Although it is not stated explicitly, a static view of the characterization is implied. Naremore also finds that "very little stylistic change takes place in the speeches as ... the characters grow older" (p. 164), with "little or no attempt ... [to adapt] the prose ... to the growth of the characters" (p. 157).
The second group contains those who believe that while all the other characters are relatively fixed, Bernard is an exception. Of this group, Payne 66 has little to say on the subject, although what he does say is succinct: "all but Bernard are however, fixed characters in that their characters are revealed rather than developed" (p. 215). (He does not elaborate on the distinction between revelation and development). Rosenthal on the other hand goes into greater detail. He agrees that with the exception of Bernard, "who is to grow significantly by the end" (p. 149), the 'characters' remain relatively fixed from the start. Their sensibilities are already fully formed in childhood, determining their responses for the rest of their lives. Any apparent changes in response during the passage from childhood to maturity are not due to any "development of sensibility" (p. 150), but are rather reactions to a series of different contexts. "While the contexts change, the nature of the voices does not" (p. 150).
The third, and by far the largest group, encompasses those who feel that all the characters develop. With two exceptions, they also believe that the characters develop in a way that is consistent with their childhood, differences between them being apparent early in their lives. Within this group most say the same things with slight differences in emphasis. The overall gist is stated neatly by Bazin: "throughout the novel, the children's conceptions of life grow along the lines laid down in these early responses to life" 67 (p. 158), the reference being to the opening lines of chapter 1.
Brewster sees the characters as always retaining within them the "children they once were" (p. 126). This is seen by Daiches as their "fulfil[ling] the characters they are seen to possess in childhood" (p. 103). Moody emphasizes the progressive revelation of the character's natures. For Rantavaara the initial lines are the clues to the development of the plot and the characters. Richter's views on the development of the characters are not made explicit, but she does comment that the opening section of The Waves reflects "viewpoints and emotions which the character will display in adult life" (p. 101). The opening sentences "symbolize ... [the] ... innate personalities of the characters" (p. 109) for Thakur.
Of this group, only Kelley and Leaska believe that the initial differences are marginal. For Kelley, initially the six children are separated only by the "thinnest lines" (p. 149). Yet she concedes that in their early reactions lie hidden the "clues to the path each character will follow into life" (p.149). After this the characters fill out rapidly, until by chapter V they are fully developed. Leaska sees the children as initially "barely differentiated" (p. 161) but considers that as the book "unfolds ... [their] perceptions ... become emblematic and gradually distinguish each child from the other" (p. 161). (It should be noted that despite this stated view, Leaska discusses the characters' opening soliloquies as if they are already distinct).
Gorsky's 68 views are also slightly different from the rest of the group's, and at the same time harder to categorize. Although her description of the text as a "kind of group Bildungsroman" (p. 109) implies development, she also finds the form of all the soliloquies, and hence all those spoken by any one character, "strikingly similar" (p. 111). Like Kelley, only more so, she finds no foreshadowing of the character's development in the early sections. She seems to be making a distinction between 'character' and 'voice', a distinction made by other critics, and yet discussing them both in relation to the same work, where the others have on the whole kept them separate.
End of Chapter
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Last modified: Monday, 04-Sep-2017 16:30:44 AEST