Thursday Quote: Elizabeth Bowen

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“Characters are not created by writers. They pre-exist and have to be found.”

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973)

What does this mean? 

Writers may come to know their characters as they create them. Perhaps they are ‘found’ by slowly revealing themselves to the writer. If the writer comes to know their characters as they write, perhaps the writer’s perception is also from the reader’s perspective.

Check out one of Elizabeth Bowen’s best-known works, The Death of the Heart, published in 1938.  It demonstrates her debt to Henry James in the careful observation of detail and the theme of innocence darkened by experience. The novel is noted for its dexterous portrayal of an adolescent’s stormy inner life. Its three sections—“The World,” “The Flesh,” and “The Devil”—refer to the baptismal rite in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

For Further Reading:

Victoria Glendinning on the love affair between Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie

Rabelais and Panurge: A Psychological Approach to Literary Character by Mary E. Ragland

‘Elizabeth Bowen’: A Fan’s Notes

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