Portraying a character is rarely done without any aim. New York Jew, a novel written in 1978 by Alfred Kazin, begins with the description of a character who seems to be the protagonist of the novel. An excerpt which presented the complete description of a character and which only focuses on him lead us to wonder the purposes of this portrait. What does the author want to indicate us about the protagonist evoking only some features?
[...] He behaves as if he was a star. Those elements clearly contrast with the evocation of the fact he is “ready to look at Nature” at line 7 ; indeed, this activity which evokes a kind of meditation, a kind of communion with Nature and which can be developed only if the man forgets himself seems to be far from what he does in reality. Wilson seems to be superficial, that is a point, but the fact he is playing a part indicates he does not come to the beach to observe the Nature but to be seen by the others. [...]
[...] This feature, this idea of contrast between the perception by the others of Wilson's appearance and the fact they totally respect and admire him is summed up in a phrase : odds” at line 20. His behaviour, the scene in which he is the main actor refers to the personal pronoun at line 26 in the sentence amused and amazed as much as it intimidated”. and seem to be paronyms, that is to say that they are words which are almost homonyms but have slight differences in spelling and pronunciation and have different meanings. [...]
[...] Actually, he is considered by the narrator as having an “antique figure” as at line 11 and as being definitely not of this time, of these younger people”. Saying he is not of his time means he is out of his time which could account for the fact he feels ill at ease as at line 35 when we can read sat without ease”. Hence Wilson appears as clearly out of step with the others, he seems to be behind the times with regards to his look. Furthermore, that is not the only gap which exists between him and the others. [...]
[...] We could note that a parallel could be drawn between the contrasts which seem to exist between the different features of the landscape but also between the way they are expressed and the inner contrasts of Wilson. In fact, the huge difference, the striking contrast which finally exists between him and the others, this gap is the key of all the other gaps and contrasts concerning Wilson. In other words, all the contrasts evoked previously result in one global contrast, the contrast between Wilson and the others and which makes him an original and a different character, and account for the fact that Wilson is a centre of attraction. [...]
[...] The protagonist uses his look as a weapon, a way to assert himself “asserted himself” at line 26- and each detail seems to have been studied. His way of speaking seems to follow an actor's example ; indeed he “launched into” a theme as at line 25. The use of the verb “launch into” evokes a tirade recited by an actor and at least absolutely does not appear as a spontaneous behaviour. Moreover Wilson, at the end of the excerpt, is sitting on the beach and lets a handful of sand “drift slowly through his half-clenched fist” ; this movement appears as totally caricatured and even a little bit kitsch. [...]
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