- Often in literature a seemingly minor character plays a major role in the plot or development of the work’s themes. Choose two works that you have studied in the OIB curriculum and explore how those works are shaped by minor characters.
Often in literature a seemingly minor character plays a major role in the plot or development of the work’s themes. They are, sometimes, considered as the antagonist of the story as they lead to the downfall of the protagonist. These characters actually give a shape to the stories and sometimes add a suspense in the story. These minor characters remain in the mind of the readers and become as important as the main character. These characters can be found in Sweet Birds of Youth by Tennessee Williams and also in The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. In both works, The writers include a minor character that change the destiny of the protagonist which obviously leads the latter to his loss. These two authors might paint a minor character that is considered as an antagonist however these antagonists play different roles. Tennessee Williams represents an antagonists that is hated by the protagonist and that makes the latter’s life miserable. On the other hand, Oscar Wilde represent a minor character that revealed the true nature of the protagonist and that is, in the beginning, admired by the protagonist.
Firstly, in Sweet Bird of Youth, the author uses the personality of Boss Finley to change the destiny of the protagonist. Indeed, he is the reason why Heavenly didn’t marry Chance leading to the end of their relationship. Boss Finley changed the whole life of Chance. It’s because of his threats that Chance left St Cloud in the first place: “you drove [Chance] away, drove him out of St. Cloud.” Because of Boss Finley, Chance took the wrong path and became the bad guy he is “Tried to compete, make himself big[..]. He went. He tried. The right doors wouldn’t open, and so he went in the wrong ones”. Boss Finley threatened Chance in the past, he was ready to castrate him: “the father of the girl wrote out a prescription for you, a sort of medical prescription, which is castration [..] that would deprive you of all you’ve got to get by on”. This quote clearly shows that Boss was ready to do anything to make the life of Chance miserable. This threat doesn’t even sound like one, it clearly shows that he is ready to do it either way. This shows that Boss is a heartless man that can use any means to arrive at his end. The hyperbola “deprive you of all” overemphasizes the statement; however, the readers can take this hyperbole seriously from the way it is said. This words were said to Scudder who took advantage of the situation. Indeed, to cover up his daughter’s operation, he promoted Dr Scudder to chief surgeon and arranged a marriage between the two. He said to Chance abruptly that “You don’t have a girl in St Cloud. Heavenly and I are going to be married next month”. Scudder who was considered as the friend of Chance has now become a kind of enemy. Boss Finley returned Chance’s friend against him. Boss changed the destiny of Heavenly who was suppose to get engaged with Heavenly. He broke into pieces the hope that the protagonist had. He didn’t just change the life of Chance but also changed and almost destroyed the one of Heavenly. Heavenly didn’t get the chance to marry the man she loved. Indeed, when Chance came back in St Cloud for her, Boss took her away: “And when he came back, you took me out of St. Cloud, and tried to force me to marry a fifty-year-old money bag that you wanted something out of”. By trying to marry her daughter to an old man, Boss shows his true nature which is to use his children for his own success. He uses people for his own purpose and not for others. Heavenly used a rhetorical question to show how her father has been controlling her life and not letting her do what she wants of it “Papa, you married for love, why wouldn’t you let me do it, while I was alive, inside, and the boy still clean, still decent?”. Boss Finley is a man who changed not only the life of Chance but also her daughter. He is a minor character but had played a major role in the life of the main characters.
This personality is also observable in The Picture of Dorian Gray. However, unlike Williams, Oscar Wilde portrays a minor character that is observable throughout the novel. His presence is something necessary to the advancement of novel. This minor character is Lord Henry. He received the admiration of Dorian who started praising him in a way. Indeed, unlike, Boss Finley, Lord Henry is an antagonist praised and loved by most people in the book. Lord Henry kind of manipulates people through his speech and appears in the book as a mentor to Dorian.Lord Henry has a negative influence on Dorian through the book. He his the reason why Dorian started to pursuit for pleasure as his values are taking from the rich class. He is the reason why Dorian placed so much importance in his youth and beauty. The epigram “To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders, It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances” shows the state of mind of Lord Henry. He only cares about appearances and he is going to spread this state of mind to the protagonist. He is the one that awakened the real Dorian Gray his true personality that he resided in him. This is mainly due to the metaphor he said: “Time is jealous of you, and wars against lilies and your roses”. By using this metaphor, Lord Henry is showing to Dorian that he is going to grow old and become ugly. This was the declict in the personality of Dorian. He woke up and finally realizes the “truth”. Lord Henry played the role of revelator to Dorian which is why he admires him. Another example might be “Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws”. Lord Henry told this to Dorian when Sibyl had just died. For him, the marriage would have been a disaster in both cases and he actually believes that Dorian shouldn’t torment himself about the death. Because of him, Dorian didn’t care less of the death of Sibyl Vane. Throughout the novel, he shared with Dorian his bad advices and his dark spirited thoughts. While Boss Finley used to power and strength to arrive at his end, Lord Henry on his side uses words, his speech to provoke a change in the characters. He doesn’t push anyone to use his advice, the proof, Basil did not succumb to it. Lord Henry is powerful in his own way. His strength relies in his way of speaking. He has the supreme power of manipulation.
To conclude, Williams and Wilde both represented in their novel a minor character that played a major role, a role of antagonist. Williams uses speeches to of different characters to show how the minor character has affected all the others characters in the novel through his power politically and economically. On the other hand, Wilde’s minor character uses epigrams and metaphors to manipulate the protagonist and the other characters. He is a kind of revelator in the story and revealed the true nature of the protagonist. The strength of this minor character resides in his manipulation.
“I think if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as
many kinds of love as there are hearts.” (Leo Tolstoy) How is love felt and expressed
in literature? Choose two OIB works that demonstrate the variety of which Tolstoy
Through the novels The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and Love in the Time
of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, we are introduced to a large variety of love in
the way it is felt and expressed. In The Handmaid’s Tale through the centrality of
relationships and the obduracy of love, the writer effectively portrays her ideas
whereas in Love in the Time of Cholera, Marquez explores love as an emotional and
physical plague. Although, both novels delve into the diversity of love by examining
its consequences on individuals.
Firstly, Atwood’s work possesses recurring instances where she focuses on the vital
importance of human relationships. In her novel, she depicts a society where such
relationships have been altered, undermined and in many ways forbidden. The
author allows the reader to take a new perspective on what have been lost in the
Republic of Gilead when the leaders consider themselves as protectors of the
society when they are really more destroyers. At the end of the novel, through the
professor who admits that “the human heart remains a factor”, Atwood delves into
how various and diverse love is. It allows the reader to acknowledge how love affects
us as individuals but also on the roots of society itself. That is to say the human heart
is a complex factor that should be taken into consideration. Indeed, Gilead expects
its citizens to have faith in its commandments but has ironically removed any kind of
love or hope. Atwood insists on the notion of the obduracy of love. It cannot be
suppressed as you can observe through Offred’s feelings for Luke and for her
mother, her friendship with Moira, her growing affection for Nick and above all her
passionate love for her child all demonstrates the importance of love. For example,
when Offred says “all I can hope for is reconstruction : the way love feels is always
only approximate”, the reader is able to understand how even in this terrific regime
love and hope, the profound nature of the human heart, subsist. In addition,
self-sacrificing love can still be found even in the tyranny of Gilead. For instance
when Ofglen kicks unconscious the man who is to die a horrible death in order to
shorten his suffering or when later she rather take her own life than risk
compromising others under torture. Finally, throughout the entire novel, the writer
specifically distinguishes love from sex as Offred says “Nobody dies from lack of sex.
It’s lack of love we die from”. The neutral and cold tone used strengthen the idea.
Then, if Atwood’s novel insists on the difference between sex and love, in Love in the
Time of Cholera the contrast between the two notions is blurred. The main character,
Florentino, confuses the two and he is in love with the idea of falling in love. He
compensates his desperation for love with sex, bringing him to be unable to
differentiate correctly the two. For instance, when “Florentino Ariza wrote everything
with so much passion that even official documents seemed to be about love. His bills
of lading were rhymed no matter how he tried to avoid it, and routine business letters
had a lyrical spirit that diminished their authority”, through the hyperbolic description
and the exaggeration with the fact that he is cursed to write in verse, the author
portrays how his character is driven by the need of the love. The romantic letters is
also a way for Marquez to criticize the substance of love. Ultimately, if poetry
represents love and as Florentino once explains that he is not good at discerning if
poetry is bad or not, it could mean that he does not understand what love means.
Thus, this bring us to how the novel establishes the complex nature of love. Then,
the novel’s most prominent theme suggest that lovesickness is a literal illness, a
plague comparable to cholera. Florentino Ariza suffers from lovesickness as one
would suffer from cholera, enduring both physical and emotional pains as he longs
for Fermina Daza. This idea is clearly portrayed when Florentino is so ill from worry
that Fermina will not respond to his declaration of love that his pain is initially
mistakes for cholera. Florentino’s illness transcends the physical to the
psychological, for though he is sick in his heart and in his stomach, he is
compulsively obsessed. Finally, Marquez elaborates on the notion of suffering in the
name of love. As Florentino says “There is no greater glory than to die for love”, the
reader acknowledges that he likes nothing more than delighting in the suffering his
intense, obsessive love inflicts. Strangely, Florentino enjoys the suffering he endures
for love; his suffering sustains him, for he sees his anguish as a gratifying,
strengthening experience that will lead him to his ultimate desire: Fermina. Through
Florentino’s character, the writer allows us to draw a line between obsession, pain,
sex and love. He establishes throughout the novel the diversity in love but notably
how truly complex this emotion is.
To conclude, both authors in their respective novels write about love, the profound
meaning it has and the marks it leaves on each individual. While The Handmaid’s
Tale focuses on the nature of the human heart and relationships, Love in the Time of
Cholera offers a new perspective on the subject. The novel introduced us to its flaws,
the psychological effects upon individuals and the thin line between obsession and
love. Both works allows us to understand further the human nature through the
theme of love.
Lana BEZOMBES – OIB Comparative Essay May 15.