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It's all based on your perspective

Foster (19,20) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"when writers send characters south, it's so they can run amok."

Foster indicates that anytime a character goes to a more exotic or warm place, the heat somehow turns them wild. However, I couldn't help noticing that most of the authors he mentioned seemed to be western writers who lived in more northerly areas. Maybe the warmer climate and change of scenery makes them feel like they can let the hair down, but I wonder if this is true for writers who live in these more "exotic" type of climates. For instance, Conrad's Heart of Darkness seems to view Africa as some untamed place that unleashes the most bestial aspects of men's souls, but Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart seems to portray life in Africa as pretty structured until visitors from more northern areas come and make things go haywire. Either way, I think writers tend to portray going to a place with a different climate as bringing things out in you that weren't present when you lived in the place you originally come from.

Comments (2)

Good point, Matt. I remember a professor telling me that because English invaders historically came from the North, Milton had his devils attack Heaven from the North. Or something like that. You're right -- understanding where the author comes from can help you understand what you can usefully gain from analyzing the geography in an author's work.


I totally agree. It doesn't matter which way you go, a change in climate it always going to bring something new out of the characters. The idea of going south and getting into mischief probably arises because we are all based in the north, and things get warmer as you go south(thus both being based in Africa). It's harder to get into moral and social mischief in a cold climate, where frigid temperatures keep people more interested in staying warm than making trouble. If we were based below the equator a character going south would probably have different significance. I wonder if characters there go north to get into trouble?

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