February 17, 2005

Disfigurements and Blindness- All in the Name of Literature

Disfigurements and Blindness- All in the Name of Literature

Foster once again brings up good, if not completely obvious, topics in "How to Read Literature like an English Professor". It all draws on the basic theme of “The author wouldn’t have put it in there if it didn’t mean something”.

Whenever a character has some sort of disfigurement or disability this is a mark of greatness according to Foster. Really, why bother writing in a problem for a character if it isn’t going to be used for something later on? The disability- be it a deformed hand, misshapen back, or any number of other things- could just be the author’s way of incorporating something different into his or her story. It can be boring reading about blonde haired blue eyes perfect characters all the time. Yet, as is often the case, the disability is a symbol of more- much more. This person will do something great or significant, whether he or she has a problem or not. In fact, it is almost ironic. The future king of Spain has one leg? The accomplished painter has deformed hands? It adds something to the story and makes the reader take notice of a character that could easily fall into the background with the rest.

Blindness is another issue mentioned in the book. I’m blind, you’re blind, we are all blind and yet can see. Confusing? A blind character isn’t just another character with a disability. He or she sees things that others can’t. Due to the physical impairment she in more “in tune” with other elements of the world that cannot see- spiritual or psychological elements. So this person can, in a way, “see”. And for the sighted characters- they are just as blind sometimes as anyone. They do not see the obvious solution to a problem because they are consumed with something else or will not acknowledge something they have done wrong for fear of being caught. These characters are “blinded” by something, rendering them similar to the truly blind.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at February 17, 2005 03:10 PM | TrackBack

I like your comment about disfigurements making us more likely to notice minor characters... When I was reading The Tempest, I remembered Caliban more than any other character (from the last time I read it). He stuck in my mind because he gets a lot more interesting description than any of the others.

Posted by: ChrisU at February 18, 2005 09:54 AM
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