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Characters in Literary Fictions

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Edited By Jadwiga Wegrodzka

The book focuses on the category of character in fiction. It provides a general outline of different approaches to literary character followed by nineteen essays on individual authors from Conrad to Coetzee, on various genres from utopia, fantasy and gothic fiction to academic novel, and on characters’ extra-textual contexts from intertextuality to history and autobiography.
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Characters in mythical and historical contexts: William Golding’s “The Scorpion God”

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JADWIGA WĘGRODZKA

It seems unquestionable that in the understanding of characters in fictional worlds the reader’s “knowledge that comes from outside the text plays a crucial role” (Eder, Jannidis, Schneider 2010: 12). In order to understand characters in a literary text the reader must not only pick up relevant information provided therein but also make use of several different types of cultural knowledge, including social knowledge, media knowledge and narrative knowledge (2010: 14). The most obvious illustration of the essential necessity of cultural knowledge is provided by fictional historical narratives. To a greater or lesser extent all historical fictions rely on the reader’s awareness of the assumed time distance to the events related and his/her knowledge of the period described. In some historical narratives the understanding of a spatiotemporally distant setting is facilitated for the reader by the narrator’s comments or by the introduction of the character of a stranger who receives explanations about puzzling features of the presented world1. However, there are many different ways in which the reader’s historical knowledge may be prompted, activated and utilised by fictional narratives.

A very interesting case of historical knowledge as an important element in the interpretation of characters, and the text as whole, is provided by William Golding’s novella “The Scorpion God”. It belongs to a collection of the same title published in 1971 and featuring two other texts: “Clonk, Clonk” and “Envoy Extraordinary”. All three stories, ← 268 | 269 → called “short novels” in the...

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