Art of Characterization of Mill on the Floss, Pride & Prejudices and Hard Times


“Art of characterization refers to the writer’s ability to portray his/her characters” (Warner). It can either be direct or indirect depending on the author. Each writer portrays his/her characters using different characterization tools and by using his/her unique style.

A writer generally uses tools such as physical descriptions, thoughts, speeches, and actions to depict the character. For instance, Jane Austen in her novel Pride and Prejudice uses her unique understanding of realism which is depicted through her characters. Whereas, George Eliot in “Mill on the Floss” presents before us realistic characters; men and women of flesh and blood with their individuality and qualities. Similarly, Charles Dickens used particular techniques to represent the class and caste system of the nineteenth century in his novel “Hard Times”.

Firstly, Jane Austen’s art of characterization deals with her understanding of society. She uses certain tools of characterization to portray her characters. Austen in her novel “Pride and Prejudice” depicts the universality of her characters through her speech. For instance, Mr. Darcy in the novel says, “I have been selfish all my life in practice but not in principle” (Austen, 1813). Austen is using the character of Darcy to point out all the wealthy aristocratic people of that time. She also uses direct characterization for the portrayal of her characters. As she explains the character of Mr. Bennet: “Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humor, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character” (Austen, 1813).

Speech in Austen’s novel is significant as it gives a deep insight into the character’s psychology. Austen is known for her understanding of psychological realism which is best represented through the speech and dialogue of a character. Darcy’s pride can be reflected through the witty remarks in his speech like how he negates Bingley when was proposes to dance with Elizabeth. Similarly, the reason for Elizabeth’s prejudice against him can easily be understood by her remark that it was her pride that was mortified by Darcy: “I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine" (Austen, 1813).

Actions, on the other hand, are also a vital part of characterization. The actions or the incidents in the plot and the character’s attitude towards them play a major role in the characterization. In the novel, it was Darcy’s action of negating Bingley to dance with Elizabeth that became the sole reason for her prejudice.

It was Darcy’s pride that was depicted by Austen at the start of the novel through his actions. Similarly, her characters are round and grow during the novel. The prejudice that Elizabeth had for Darcy is proven to be wrong through the course of the novel. Darcy’s sincerity and faithfulness are discovered through a series of incidents for instance his help in Lydia and Wickham’s marriage, his paying off Wickham’s debt, and through his letters to Elizabeth at the end of the novel. 

Secondly, George Eliot deals with the realistic and psychological depiction of characters and uses certain tools to delineate her characters. Her portraits are “off thinner man”. Eliot in her novel “Mill on the Floss” portrays her characters by using a direct narrator mostly. She provides a detailed characterization of the character and how that character grows during the novel. Her presentation of characters realistically with the use of a narrator to explain the situation is different from typical Victorians. In the portrayal of characters, she uses different speech techniques for characters.

For instance, in the novel to represent the different dialects of Mr. Tulliver, it is written with a lot of apostrophes. Their unique way of communication gives an insight into their character. Inner thoughts are as crucial as speech in the characterization of Eliot’s characters as these thoughts often give a deep insight into the character’s psychology, mentality, and desires. Maggie Tulliver at the start of the novel is a little girl full of dreams and ambitions who wants to run away to the gypsies and want to read books. The course of the novel develops and Maggie’s character is somewhat changed and matured. She faces the greatest conflict which agitated her and caused her deep agony but ultimately suffers.

Eliot not only traces virtue and vice but also traces their cause which is represented through incidents in the course of the novel.

Thirdly, Charles Dickens has a particular and certain technique that he uses in characterization. Most of his novels are characterized by extremely detailed observation and portrayal. Dickens in his novel uses different physical appearances and features to represent the character’s mentality. For instance, Mrs. Sparsit is generally known for her giant nose and through physiognomy, one can tell a lot about her character.

Also, the names of the characters are significant in the portrayal of characters as these names are associated with certain meanings on the basics of their phonology like the word bitzer for example has a sharp, short, and hostile sound. The same is the character of Mr. Bitzer in the novel; accurately depicting his personality.

The portrayal of both good and bad qualities in a character is prominent depicting a realistic picture of the contemporary society at that time. Lastly, Dickens's use of symbolism is prominent and significant in his characterization as many symbols put forward the innermost desires of the characters. For instance, the use of “fire” as a symbol is significant. This fire symbolizes the warmth Louisa gets from her secret fancies. Similarly, “The Bottle of Nine Oils” symbolizes Cecelia’s love for her father.

All in all, the art of characterization varies from writer to writer as it depends upon the writer’s ability to portray a character. Jane Austen in her novels focuses on the manners of society and realistic depiction so her characters are complex. Whereas, George Eliot’s focus is on the realism and psychological development of a character throughout the novel so her characters are usually men and women of flesh and blood with their flaws and qualities. On the other hand, Charles Dickens displays the problems of contemporary society through realistic depiction and his characters are a true depiction of society.

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