The Importance of Characterization

While reading The Familiar, several factors contributed to my general perception of the characters. With several voices that change frequently I was concerned that the characters would begin to blend and I wouldn’t be able to distinguish Ozgur from Shnork, for example. Fortunately, Danielewsky side-steps this problem by giving each character a unique set of traits along with visual cues (including formatting, font, and images).

Each narrative voice is unique, owing in part to the fact that several characters are non-White-Americans. With that comes distinctive grammar and speech patterns. Jingjing, who speaks Singlish, is a perfect example. I was deeply immersed in Jingjing’s world with the use of Asian-influenced speech patterns. This section would definitely have a different feel if it were written in standard American English.

In a class discussion, we questioned the reasoning behind Danielewsky’s decision to include non-American characters. To name a few, Anwar is Egyptian; Jingjing is Singaporean; and Schnork is Armenian. I am interested to hear what everyone else thinks about this. Also, I’m interested to see how the use of meticulous characterization through dialogue will lead to further character growth and development throughout the novel.

Character growth is essential to all stories. And Danielewsky is skillful at that. But right now, the story is slow moving. I hope to learn where he is going with this! I am excited to learn how the individual narratives connect or if they connect. Even though this is contemporary, experimental fiction, character development is still just as important in traditional novels. Now that he’s established most characters, I’m excited to see what will happen to them in the story as well as the upcoming volumes of The Familiar.

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One response to “The Importance of Characterization”

  1. JDS17 says :

    I agree with your point that Danielewski is using the differing narratives in order to further character growth. It’s almost as if the author is using the different narratives in order to cause the reader to truly develop a connection between the stories on his/her own.

    Yet, I can’t help but be a little troubled with Danielewski’s use of non-American dialect within the novel. The jingjing sections, especially, seem like an Orientalist viewpoint on the Singaporean culture. Danielewski is writing in a dialect that is not native to him, and, as far as I know, he is appropriating a different culture in order to tell his Western story. Is Danielewski purely using the differing cultures of his characters in order to show the different viewpoints of a diverse group on this “One Rainy Day in May?” This is a valid viewpoint, but Danielewski could have told this diverse story without the use of dialects outside of his own.

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