As a newly graduated student and an ever pondering reader, I've been wondering about my reviews' critical character analysis'. For me, when I review a book, I always state my feelings towards certain characters. I've never thought too much of it, it's just something I like to know and hence I provide my readers with the same courtesy.
A while back, I came upon a great article by Greg Mortimer titled, "Why Likeable Characters are Beside the Point". Eureka! Why of course they are!
Looking back to the books I've been assigned to read over my school years, most of them are modern classics (minus Shakespeare but then, those weren't books per say...) i.e. Lord of the Flies, and The Great Gastby, etc. I've come to realize that they all feature very unlikeable characters. But if we read to find friends and like characters, then how have these books survived so long and why are they being taught at schools?
To this, Mortimer has a glorious quote from Claire Messud author of The Woman Upstairs. She says, "The relevant question isn't 'Is this a potential friend for me?' but 'Is this character alive?'"
I identify really well with this. I just finished reading The Great Gatsby for my senior English class and I realized some very interesting things. Daisy is a hated character for what she does. But she is real. To me she personifies the weak-willed people who will choose familiarity over happiness. She is the woman who had everything going for her and a fresh start awaiting her but she throws it away in fear. How many times have we been that person? I am that person every time a new opportunity is awaiting me that will take me away from what is familiar. This aspect scares the bejeezus out of me and hence, I am left behind. I miss my chance and if I were a character in a book you might dislike me as well.
When it comes down to it, humans are much more forgiving when it comes to real life. We realize people have flaws and while some flaws may be too big to ignore, others aren't. Taking this idea to literary characters and we aren't as forgiving. For instance, my friends with whom I read The Great Gatsby despise Daisy with a passion. Because of their hatred, they have come to see Daisy as a one sided, underdeveloped and an unrelatable character. I disagree, I don't like her but I see her importance. To me, she brings F. Scott Fitzgerald's book to life.