Notes on Characterization from Brown’s Hope Amidst Ruin

So this is the final installment of my notes on how narrative literature works from Brown’s Hope Amidst Ruin. For more, you’ll have to read the book for yourself, which I don’t think you’ll regret doing. Here’s what he says about Characterization:

“Characterization refers to how an author portrays the characters in his narrative” (108).

“There is a scale of means, in ascending order of explicitness and certainty, [for accomplishing characterization]. . . . The lower end of this scale—character revealed through actions or appearance—leaves us substantially in the realm of inference. The middle categories, involving direct speech either by a character himself or by others about him, lead us from inference to the weighing of claims. . . . With the report of inward speech, we enter the realm of relative certainty about character. . . . Finally at the top of the ascending scale, we have the reliable narrator’s explicit statement of what the characters feel, intend, desire; here we are accorded certainty, though Biblical narrative . . . may choose for its own good purposes either to explain the ascription of attitude or state it baldly and thus leave its cause as an enigma for us to ponder” (Alter, Art of Biblical Narrative, 117, cited in Brown, Hope Amidst Ruin, 108–109 n. 57).

“characterization is also a means by which the narrator expresses his own point of view and shapes his reader’s perspective” (109).

“Biblical characters are primarily depicted through word and action. Only rarely does a narrator employ direct characterization” (112).

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