Characters and Identification


Characters and Identification

In the beginning of The Escape to Myanmar the perspective is Lisa’s. She is “an ordinary” young woman from Sweden, who the reader hopefully can identify herself/himself with.

According to Jonathan Cohen, we develop an interest in fictional events by identifying with the characters in the story:

One way in which we develop an interest in fictional events is through identification with characters in a story. Identification provides us with several important keys to fictional involvement: Identifying with a character provides a point of view on the plot; it leads to an understanding of character motivations, an investment in the outcome of events, and a sense of intimacy and emotional connection with a character. (“Audience identification with media characters” in Bryant Jennings & Peter Vorderer eds., Psychology of Entertainment, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006, p. 184)

Lars Åke Augustsson means that the ability of identification is the foundation of compassion:

The ability called identification – the idea that another person could be me – is the foundation of compassion in general.(Augustsson, 2002, p.13)

Also Cohen means that identification has affective and cognitive components:

Thus, identification has affective (empathy) and cognitive (understanding goals and motives, perspective-taking) components (Cohen, p. 184f).

If the writer identifies herself/himself with her/his characters and writes with compassion, the reader is also able to read with identification and compassion, as I see it.

In an interview about her novel Sfinx, the Swedish author Christine Falkenland has said that she works like an actor when she writes. She tries to put herself in a mood and evokes different kinds of emotions while writing. In Sfinx she takes the role of a jealous ex-wife. She acts out the feeling in the text and plays the role of a stalker (Hanna Nolin, LevaPS!, no. 10, September/Oktober 2011, p. 70). Falkenland identifies with her main character and therefore the reader is also able to understand how the character thinks and feels. The reader feels compassion for the character, no matter how she behaves.

This is what I have tried to do in The Escape to Myanmar. I have tried to put myself into different roles in order to make it easier for the reader to identify herself/himself with the characters. There are nine different characters holdning the perspective in different chapters in The Escape to Myanmar, seven of them are refugees. I wanted to write from different perspectives to be able to show the exile experience from several points of view, since it is not the same for everyone, as pointed out by Marita Eastmond, professor in social anthropology, in ‘Stories as Lived Experience: Narratives in Forced Migration Research’ (Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2007, p. 253).

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