In this paper, I will strive to show the significance of characterization, at the expense of other elements of literature, towards the successful revelation of the deeper meaning of the following two short stories: “War” By Luigi Colette and “The other Wife” by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. As we shall see characterization can be employed as the main vehicle towards the realization of a writer’s thematic concerns.
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“The Other Wife” by charlotte is about a woman, who is married to a rich husband; the story has three characters, Marc, Alice and Marc’s ex-wife (Colette). The bulk of it comprises of dialogue between Marc and Alice who have just arrived at a hotel for lunch. Incidentally, Marc’s ex-wife is in the same hotel. Through exchanges of pleasantries that reveal the traits of Marc and Alice, Calotte foregrounds the themes of patriarchy and sexual love.
Marc is a controlling husband. He finds pride and power in dominating his wife and feeling needed. For instance, when his wife lets him order lunch for both, he is so pleased that: “He sighed as if he had just moved an armoire, gazed at the colorless midday sea” (Colette). This simple act gives him great pleasure.
His wife, Alice, on the other hand is emotionally dependent on him. She is passive and unobtrusive. She willingly lets Marc make even the smallest of decisions for her. For example, when Marc asks her what she would like for lunch, she so naturally lets him order dinner for both: “Whatever you like, you know that” (Colette). She is so proud of his complements that she seems to rely on them to reaffirm her self-worth: “Her firm, round breasts rose proudly as she leaned over the table” (Colette).
It is through the characterization of Marc and Alice, the contrasting of Alice with Marc’s ex-wife, that the story’s themes are revealed. By characterizing Marc’s ex-wife happy and contented and Alice as timid and dependent, the story’s themes are realized.
“War” on the other hand is a longer piece. It’s about how parents who have children at the battlefront view war (Pirandello). The horrors that are committed during war can never be justified by simply invoking patriotism. It is through the characterization of the fat red faced man that the main theme of this story is communicated.
At first, we think him stoic and patriotic and the other parents are embarrassed when he says such things as: “Why then should we consider the feelings of our children when they are twenty? Isn’t it natural that at their age they should consider the love for Country even greater than the love for us” (Pirandello). And later;
“Everyone should stop crying; everyone should laugh, as I do…or at least thank God—as I do—because my son, before dying, sent me a message saying that he was dying satisfied at having ended his life in the best way he could have wished” (Pirandello).
But we get to know that is mere bravado, his unwillingness to face his son’s death is what inspires his talk. Eventually, it becomes inevitable that he should face reality and “he snatched in haste a handkerchief from his pocket and, to the amazement of everyone, broke into harrowing, heart-breaking, uncontrollable sobs” (Pirandello).
It is through the characterization of this man as vulnerable that we are forced to really wonder at the worth of war, even with patriotism at stake. As clearly shown, characterization is a powerful conveyer of inner meaning in literature.
Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle. “The other wife”. 2007. 28 Jan. 2012. <http://www.101bananas.com/library2/otherwife.html>.
Pirandello, Luigi. “War.” 2009. Web.