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Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction

Homosociality and Nihilist Performance

Sandra Singer

Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction considers fictional work of the time subsequent to the attacks. The book develops and investigates models of stock characters in 9/11 fiction who promote the trauma meme within a narrative arc of tragedy; the conceptual evolution of trauma and media as thematic arcs is interpreted within specific 9/11 novels and in correspondence with other terrorist fiction. The almost exclusively male stock character protagonists include the male homosocial perpetrator and the tightrope walker. Among the more recent authors discussed are Amy Waldman and Thomas Pynchon, whose novels illustrate the way characters inhabit media models, rather than, as previously thought, using media for disseminating terrorist events and messaging. Other featured writers include Bernhard Schlink, Don DeLillo, Claire Messud, Ian McEwan, Joseph O’Neill, and Colum McCann. Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction is a valuable text for scholars of 9/11 fiction, as well as for professors and university students studying contemporary literature.

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Chapter 1. Homosocial Character Dynamics in Bernhard Schlink’s The Weekend


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Lose your father, your husband,

Your mother, your children.

What are you dying for?

It’s not my reality.

—Marianne Faithfull, “Broken English”

In order to approach terrorism through character analysis, one could consider individuals as abstractions with limited capacity to effect change in the storyworld. Using the size metaphors of the micro and macro, the individual character is a micro element while the macro elements are incidents impacting on the individual. There is a disparity of size and effects between an individual in its microbic everyday interactions and powerful terrorist occurrences. Yet the 9/11 novel very much depends on character types such as the orientalized terrorist and impacted Western victim. Each character type operating in the larger macroweb of the storyworld functions in ways that contribute to plot dynamics and narrative progression.

James Phelan defines three character functions operating in fiction that can be applied to 9/11 writing: “the mimetic (character as person), the thematic (character as idea), and the synthetic (character as artificial construct)” (29). Narrative progression determines the relationship between ← 19 | 20 → character functions, and in 9/11 fiction progression arguably is generated “through tensions, that is, some disparity of knowledge, value, judgment, opinion, or belief between narrators and readers or authors and readers” (30). As a general rule of thumb (though not always), the orientalized terrorist functions along lines of...

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