What is a perfect human? Human perfection may be measured by physical ability or intellectual achievement; however, it may also be measured by strength of character, and in this realm humans may often fall short. Weakness of character, shown through various character flaws, causes most of the hardships in life.
Literature such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Alison Walker’s The Color Purple contain three levels of characters: setting characters, secondary characters and the main character. Combined, these three all contribute character flaws which leads to the novel or play’s ultimate tragedy.
The setting character appears in the beginning of a piece of literature to give one a feel and sense of how the piece will reach out to the reader. King Duncan sets the atmosphere in Macbeth when we see different characters take advantage of his character flaw, naivete. Immediately we begin to see some of the major themes such as betrayal and manipulation and know what direction the play will take. King Duncan’s naivete is first shown when we find out that the former Thane of Cawdor has betrayed King Duncan and that he did not have any idea of it. This incident then prepares us for King Duncan’s meeting with Lady Macbeth, where Lady Macbeth deceives King Duncan. We know Lady Macbeth is not loyal, yet he considers her his “honour’d hostess…/Which still [he] thank[s] and love[s]” (I. vi. 9-12). Once again when naive King Duncan puts his trust into the hands of disloyal Macbeth by making him Thane of Cowdar, the atmosphere and plot advances by making Macbeth’s future plans possible.
Celie’s mother, in the beginning of the novel The Color Purple, is a very small but effective setting character. Her character flaw was irresponsible parenting because she did not protect her daughter. With this lack of protection, Celie did not have any female role models when she was growing up. Therefore, Celie was not able to become knowledgeable about life and have good female company. Another effect this flaw had on the protagonist was that she had no one to teach her how to understand herself. Celie was unable to realize all of the wonderful qualities of being and becoming a woman. Because she could not appreciate being a woman, she was unable to appreciate herself, and therefore had a lack of self confidence.
Literary Criticism of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
Literary Criticism of Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights is not just a love story, it is a window into the human soul, where one sees the loss, suffering, self discovery, and triumph of the characters in this novel. Both the Image of the Book by Robert McKibben, and Control of Sympathy in Wuthering Heights by John Hagan, strive to prove that neither Catherine nor Heathcliff are to blame for their wrong doings. Catherine and Heathcliff’s passionate nature, intolerable frustration, and overwhelming loss have ruined them, and thus stripped them of their humanities.
McKibben and Hagan take different approaches to Wuthering Heights, but both approaches work together to form one unified concept. McKibben speaks of Wuthering Heights as a whole, while Hagan concentrates on only sympathies role in the novel. McKibben and Hagan both touch on the topic of Catherine and Heathcliff’s passionate nature. To this, McKibben recalls the scene in the book when Catherine is “in the throes of her self-induced illness” (p38). When asking for her husband, she is told by Nelly Dean that Edgar is “among his books,” and she cries, “What in the name of all that feels has he to do with books when I am dying.” McKibben shows that while Catherine is making a scene and crying, Edgar is in the library handling Catherine’s death in the only way he knows how, in a mild mannered approach. He lacks the passionate ways in which Catherine and Heathcliff handle ordeals. During this scene Catherine’s mind strays back to childhood and she comes to realize that “the Linton’s are alien to her and exemplify a completely foreign mode of perception” (p38). Catherine discovers that she would never belong in Edgar’s society. On her journey of self-discovery, she realized that she attempted the impossible, which was to live in a world in which she did not belong. This, in the end, lead to her death. Unlike her mother, when Cathy enters The Heights, “those images of unreal security found in her books and Thrushhold Grange are confiscated, thus leading her to scream, “I feel like death!” With the help of Hareton, Cathy learns not to place her love within a self created environment, but in a real life where she will be truly happy. The character’s then reappear as reconciled, and stability and peace once more return to The Heights.
Hagan, when commenting on Catherine’s passionate nature, recalls the same scene when Catherine is near death.