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Essay/Term paper: Characterization

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Papers

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Characterization is the change that occurs in a character throughout
the story. The change can be either a physical one or an emotional
one. In the stories "Strong Horse Tea," by Alice Walker and "The
Suicides of Private Greaves," by James Moffett, the characters involved
go through changes that effect both stories ending. Characterization
also occurs in stories through the eyes of other characters and how
they view the main person in a story. A character's change in the
story will eventually lead to the resolution, and inevitably the end of
the story. In "Strong Horse Tea" the main characters change is very
evident. Rannie Mae Toomer's change in the story is apparent to the
reader and audience. She (Rannie) goes through both an emotional
change as well as a change in her beliefs (both spiritually and on how
she viewed people.) Rannie is a black woman living in America during
its oppressive years, with her only salvation being her infant son,
Snooks. Her son is very sick and in desperate need of medicine.
Rannie is convinced that a white doctor will come and visit her and
take care of her son. Rannie, however, does not realize her situation,
and hopes still that a doctor will come. "Lawd, why don't that doctor
come on here?" Rannie keeps on hoping, and not allowing Sarah, the
witch doctor to help her. Rannie believes that Sarah help will be
evil, and that the white doctor will soon come. 'We going to have us a
doctor,' Rannie Toomer said fiercly, walking over to shoo a fat winter
fly from her child's forehead. 'I don't belive in none of that swamp

Rannie is unaware of who she is and how others view her. She does not
realize that the color of her skin is oppressing her. Rannie is
convinced that the mailman (her only connection to the outside world)
can help her out. The mailman, however, has other views about Rannie.
He sees her as an animal ("Rannie Mae, leaning over him out of the rain
smelt like a wet goat." ) with absolutely no intelligence ("Today he
thought she looked more ignorant than usual^. ) Rannie is convinced
that the mailman will get her doctor for her, but as the time passes
she comes to the realization that Sarah is her only hope. 'But I told
you,' Rannie Toomer said in exasperation, as if explaining something to
a backward child. 'I asked the mailman to bring a doctor for my

The reader can see the desperation that Rannie is experiencing when she
finally lets Sarah help the dying child. "Rannie began to cry,
moaning," the reader can see the emotional change that Rannie is going
through. Rannie's has to give up on her faith and view on life, with
the slim chance that it will save her baby. 'Here,' she cried,
snatching up the baby and handing him to Sarah. "Make him well. O my
Lawd, make him well!'

At this point in the story, the reader knows that the conflict will be
resovled. Rannie is at a point of hopelessness and will do almost
anything Sarah tells her to do to try and save her son. "'I'll do
anything you say do, Aunt Sarah,' she cried^." The reader sees the
visible change in Rannie's outlook. She is now willing to accept the
withc remedies that earlier in the story she disregarded. Rannie
accepts this situation, because she finally realizes the position that
she is in.
Sarah tells Rannie that the only way to cure Snooks, is if he
drinks "Strong Horse Tea," which the reader can infer is
horses' urine. Rannie proceeds in the pouring rain to go and
fetch some. Out of pure despair, Rannie is forced to store the
"tea" in her mouth because she has forgotten a container. The
ironic part, sadly, is that the reader already knows that
Rannie's baby has passed away, and Rannie will not be able to
save him; "^ the frail breathing had stopped with the thunder,
not to come again." Rannie has gone through a psychological
change at the end of the story. She has come to the awareness
of her situation and now has to come to face it. She realizes
that she is of color, and that the world will treat her
differently. In coming to this realization, Rannie also has to
put her beliefs aside so that she can try to save her son.
Rannie understands that her beliefs will have to come second to
trying to save her son. Rannie's son Snooks also goes through
a change, but his is a physical one. Snooks at the end of the
story dies, and therefore has changed. In "The Suicides of
Private Greaves," the change in the characters is also a
physical one as well as an emotional one. Private Greaves goes
through a physical change because in the end of the story he
dies, while the Colonel goes through an emotional change while
trying to convince Greaves not to kill himself. Greaves can be
seen as the main character in the story, but he really is not.
The story just revolves around him and the choices he makes.
The main character is actually the institution of the army
itself and how it goes through change as one of its members try
to kill himself. Greaves is enlisted in the army, and for
reason the reader never really finds out, tries to kill himself
on several occasions. He says that he "^hates soldiers," and
therefore wanted to kill himself. The author never reveals
more information about Greaves. The reader is never really sure
as to why Greaves want to kill himself and is never informed.
The character that is most affected in this story is the
Colonel. He goes through an emotional change when he sees
Private Greaves standing on the ledge getting ready to jump;
"From where Greaves leaned against the circular iron
rail^." The colonel goes into regression and starts
thinking about the past, and how he was unable to save a life
of a friend. The Colonel decides that he needs to help Private
Greaves because he was unable to help his friend. Someone
ruined him as I ruined Ralph. ^ Could I stop him if I hollered to him?
But Ralph never came back when I called. But the kid may die in a

The reader is able to see the Colonel emotional change in that
paragraph. A military colonel is supposed to be rigid and cold with no
emotions, but this Colonel is going thorough major problems in his
head. He is remembering when he could not save the life of his friend
and hope and prays that he can help Greaves not kill his life. The
Colonel efforts however are not persuasive enough to help Greaves, and
he (Greaves) takes his own life; "Presently he saw the shapeless,
half-created bay between the rungs."
A Character plays a crucial role in the story, and how they
grow as characters helps the story come to an end. The
character development helps the conflict become resolved.


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