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The literature has always had an extremely strong connection with the real life. Mainly social problems, human erroneous nature, and desire to share the thoughts with people make the writers create unique characters. However, one can easily find the tendency of people being more likely to understand something that is closer to them and real life. Therefore, the most serious pieces of literature often represent their protagonists as people who face the common life problems but manage to solve them due to the diversity and deepness of their characters. However, some other characters can be strange and alien to the readers. Correspondingly, the literary critics and other scholars distinguish between two notions: the round and flat characters. In this paper, the characters of such stories as Joyce Carol Oates’ Where Are You Going: Where Have You Been?, John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums, William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily, and Raymond Carver’s Cathedral will be analyzed to compare the round and flat characters, show the main differences between them, and prove that the flat characters the most often support the protagonist and are the minor ones.
In order to understand the differences between the flat and round characters, there are good reasons to find their examples in literature. Joyce Carol Oates’ Where Are You Going: Where Have You Been? is a short story that represents a number of flat characters to the readers. Among such, one can see the family members and the main heroine’s sister June, who is known to the readers only as a well-bred, “clean,” “having fixed hair,” “living at home with parents” twenty-four-year-old girl (Oates). This character is obviously an opposition to the main heroine Connie, who has conflicts with her family all the time and does not want to be a nice and amenable daughter. She resembles a real teenager who explores the world and is in search ofadventures all the time. The author shows how strongly Connie rejects the type of behavior that was peculiar for June and find out her own style of dressing and doing everything. In contrast to her family, Connie is perceived as the character that is full of life and energy. Oates has created her character in a way that it becomes interesting to follow her deeds and development. She is in action not only physically, but mentally. Oats shows the way of the character development through her did and feelings description. From the girl, who rejected the rules and hated her family, she turned into the one, who got worried about them and feeling that “nothing belonged to her” (Oates). Therefore, Connie represents the character, which has developed from a childlike one into that, who actually gets acquainted with the real adult life.
The round characters attract the audience more than the flat one for a number of reasons. For instance, Henry Allen, the husband of the main heroine of The Chrysanthemums is known to the readers only as a good husband and good man who is content with his life and regularly does the same things. In contrast to him, Elisa is a passionate and smart woman, who seeks for new impressions in life. Steinberg reveals her character though numerous dialogues and mostly her connection to nature and reaction on various things like flowers that made her exclaim with excitement about their beauty and made “her eyes shine” (Steinberg). Through her behavior at home with husband and while meeting with Tinker, the author reveals her character with all her qualities, desires, and aspirations. The readers perceive this woman as a real and deep character, who wants more than she has and struggles to be happy as all people in real life should do. Instead of one trait common for the flat characters, the protagonist obviously has a bunch of them in all dimensions. However, they can be found out only thanks to attentive observation of her reactions, decisions, and steps she made during the sstory.
Faulkner’s main heroine seems to be standing on the same place and being an ordinary old woman. However, with the description of her life that the audience finds, it becomes interesting that the real apprehension of what kind of person she became is clear only after her death. Although Emily seemed to be a flat character, “a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town,” in reality, she was a lonely woman scared of being left by her close people (Faulkner). At first, she seemed to be quite alike to her serious, well-bred, and controlling father. However, the father’s strong-willed character should be regarded as the opposite to weak Emily who could not feel self-sufficiently alone. However, the readers can see that the heroine has not undergone changes during her life. He was restricted from the changes and rather got the weakest traits and inability to struggle expand and strengthen. However, her character cannot be regarded as flat as with the flow of story, her new characteristics come to light.
The flat character undergoes no change in the story. For instance, the wife of the narrator in Carver’s Cathedral as well as the blind men are reflected as wise, friendly, easy-going and content people. In contrast to them, the head of the protagonist is constantly filled with thoughts, doubts, jealousy, etc. He is in a constant struggle with his inner world. Although he is physically healthy, has a sympathetic wife, a good job, a nice house, etc., he is unhappy, not hospitable, jealous person. Nevertheless, the wise blind man manages to open the narrator's eyes and show him his own world. In such a way, the narrator undergoes a king of enlighten when Robert asked the narrator to describe him a cathedral, and the narrator failed to do it (Carver). From a rude and ignorant person, the protagonist “didn't feel like he was inside anything” (Carver). The narrator becomes free and could see everything clearly.
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