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Dynamic vs Static Characterization

One of the ways by which a character in a story is analyzed and discussed is whether the character undergoes a kind of change throughout the narrative. Two literary terms that are commonly used in characterization are “static” and “dynamic”. A static character is one that does not undergo important change in the course of the story, remaining essentially the same at the end as he or she was at the beginning while a dynamic character, in contrast, is one that does undergo an important change in the course of the story (Baker).

The changes (or the lack of them) referred to are not physical or lifestyle changes, but psychological changes within the character. It could be a shift in the character’s value system brought about by the circumstances he faces in the story. It could also be a change in viewpoint or outlook about a particular thing, emotion, or idea after an experience. This paper will characterize three characters from three different short stories using the “dynamic versus static” manner of analysis.

The three are the hunger artist from Franz Kafka’s The Hunger Artist, Nick Adams from Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers and Olenka from Anton Checkov’s The Darling The unnamed hunger artist in Kafka’s story is an example of a static character. In the beginning of the story, the hunger artist is very consummate about his ability to fast for days. He considers it an art. He does not mind the glare of flashlights directed at him by curious watchers but upset when people express suspicion about his fasting, that maybe he keeps a secret supply of food that he eats when no one is watching.

The doubts from people create a sense of dissatisfaction in him but he persists in his fasting. After 40 days, the hunger artist is forced to eat, this culmination being part of the show. He harbors contempt every time the day comes when he had to stop fasting because he feels that he could go on far longer than forty days, an achievement that he feels would further his ability and his art. Nobody understands why he fasts, much more why he would refuse to eat. The plot of Kafka’s story would have gone on without anything significant to tell because of the unchanging nature of the character.

But while the hunger artist does not change, society does. After some time, the hunger artist ceases to become an interesting spectacle. Yet, instead of realizing that he and what he does has ceased to become fashionable, the hunger artist continues with his fasting. Even when he has simply become a sideshow in a circus instead of the star as he was before, he remains as dedicated as ever to the art of fasting. At the end of the story, when the supervisor asks him when he is going to stop fasting, he apologizes and says that he continues fasting because he couldn’t find a food which he enjoys.

This is only an excuse he makes. While he was dying, the hunger artist believes he has remained dedicated to his art even when nobody else does anymore: “In his failing eyes there was the firm, if no longer proud, conviction that he was continuing to fast. ” His character remains unchanging in his beliefs to the end. In contrast, Nick Adams is a dynamic character. Hemingway’s story has many characters each of which is a major participant in the plot but Nick Adams is the most interesting of them all in that of the men, he is the one most affected by what happens.

In the beginning of the story he is an image of the simple, small-town lad who works as a server in a restaurant. Although his age is not mentioned in the story he must be younger than the rest since the killer Al, calls him a “bright boy” and the other restaurant server, George, orders him around suggesting of the latter’s superiority over Nick. Nick’s life changes when two hired killers come to the restaurant, hoping to see Mr. Anderson whom they are tasked to kill. While waiting for their victim, the killers make sure that no customers stay to eat.

They bound and gag Nick and the cook, leaving George to fend off customers from eating. The killers leave them when Mr. Anderson fails to arrive after his usual dinner time is over. Then, George asks Nick to go to Mr. Anderson’s rooming-house to warn him. The cook protests this move believing that they would be better off if they stay out of the killers’ business, but Nick chooses to go. However, when he informs Mr. Anderson about the killers, Nick leaves in disappointment because Mr. Anderson refuses to do anything about his fate. He doesn’t even want to go to the police for help.

When Nick asks him if he could get out of town, Anderson replies “I’m through with all that running around. ” In the end, it is he who decides to leave: “I’m going to get out of this town…I can’t stand to think about him waiting in the room and knowing he’s going to get it. It’s too damned awful. ” With this simple statement, Nick’s innocent belief about the value of life is shattered with the way Mr. Anderson refuses to fight for his own life, even when he still has the chance and means to do it. Nick wants to run away and escape but of course, he will never be the same again wherever he runs away.

The third character, Olenka, can be viewed as both static and dynamic at the same time. Her being dynamic, however, is limited in the sense that her character’s opinions and personality only change every time she has a new man in her life. Throughout the story Olenka marries twice, falls in love with a third man who rejects her, and finally, she dotes on the third man’s son. Her personality, interests and opinions mirror that of every man. When she marries a theater manager, she becomes engrossed in the business, taking care of the books and wages.

She tells her friends that “the theatre was the chief and most important thing in life and that it was only through the drama that one could derive true enjoyment and become cultivated and humane. ” However, when her theater-manager husband dies and she remarries to a timber merchant, she suddenly becomes an expert in anything that relates to timber and even dreams of planks, boards, beams and logs. When one of her friends suggest that she goes to the theater for distractions, she surprises the reader when she answers: “Vassitchka and I have no time to go to theatres…We have no time for nonsense.

What’s the use of these theatres? ” And it has only been mere months when she was managing a theater with her former husband. Finally, when she falls in love with a veterinary surgeon she learns to talk about “the cattle plague, of the foot and mouth disease, and of the municipal slaughterhouses” much to the embarrassment of the surgeon who would like to keep their affair secret. Olenka’s character is static in a sense that she is a woman who satisfies the stereotype of the traditional wife whose personality is dependent on her husband. Without a man, her real personality is revealed to the reader.

She is a woman who cannot be expected to express an opinion on anything at all. During the interims when she has no husband or lover, she feels lost and depressed. The hunger artist, Nick and Olenka are characters who are either changed or refuse to be changed by the circumstances in their respective lives. All characters are troubled individuals in a sense that the outcome of all stories, like in real-life, depends on the choices that individuals make. A conflict is a struggle in every story that demands for the character to make a choice.

One is said to be dynamic if he chooses to change and static if one refuses to budge from his long-held beliefs and values even in the face of pressure. But whatever one chooses to do, he would move the plot to a particular consequence. And what happens next, whether it is good or bad, favorable or unfavorable to the character, makes the reader understand and sympathizes with the character more.

Works Cited Baker, Lymann. Critical Concepts: Static and Dynamic Characterization. 07 March 2001. <http://www. k-state. edu/english/baker/english320/cc-static_vs_dynamic_characterization. htm>.

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