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The Development of Characters' Identities in Contemporary British Literature

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In the movie “Everyday,” the main character is a person who wakes up in a different body every day. They never wake up in the same body twice and they never get to know whose body they are going into next. It is always a mystery to what kind of mood or feelings they will have because do not really know who they are as a person. All throughout Contemporary British literature, poets and authors use narrators who tell their own individual stories and life experiences to find their true identities. Margaret Atwood, in addition, uses the outdoor environment to influence the characters’ own individuality in the short story “Death by Landscape.” In the poem “Originally,” Carol Ann Duffy gives the characters distinguishing characteristics through life experiences, similar to Duffy’s Scottish immigration. In the poem, “This is a Photograph of Me” Margret Atwood, also, gives a character the ability to look at herself in a different way than she did before her death. Authors and poets, overall, use many factors to help the character find their identity throughout the story or poem.

In Atwood’s short story, she begins with giving Lois the environment she needs to recognize herself in “Death by Landscape.” In addition, while she was at camp, the environment around her is better than it was back at home where she lived. Lucy realizes “it would be nice not to go back” when they are sleeping outside under the stars. Dynamic characterization forces Lois to realize she is free at camp and is on track of finding her true, happy self. Meanwhile, Lois has so much more freedom when she is at camp because she does not have her parents constantly looking over her and controlling her. After Lois “travelled so far, overall that water, with nothing to propel them but their own arms” she realizes how there are many activities she is capable of accomplishing. This is ironic because Lois had two camp counselors that are always watching the girls and she does not have as much freedom as if she was all on her own, but has much more than back at home which allows her to understand what makes her happy. The setting that Atwood puts Lois in, additionally, gives her the independence she needs to truly find her own identity. When the girls “begged to be allowed to sleep out,” it showed their counselors that they are responsible. Through indirect character development, Atwood shows that Lois is being more independent rather than just telling the reader. All in all, the environment plays a key role in the way authors deepen their characters’ understanding of who they are.

In “Originally,” Duffy also, uses a narrator who goes through a life-changing experience that will later change the character’s identity. Furthermore, Duffy uses the traumatic experience of immigration to set a story of a young narrator on her journey of self-growth. “As the miles rushed back to the city,” the immigrants miss their country and their home already. This flashback of the scary journey illustrates the speaker’s remembrance of the sorrow they felt when they left from their own home. In a similar way, many times when people move to a new place they want to return to the house they grew up in, but they struggle to go back. They come to a new country with all of their belongings and “in a red room which fell through the fields,” they find their new home. The vivid imagery helps the reader be in the moment of the poem. In the same manner, Duffy uses an event that every person goes through, childhood, so the reader can relate to the poem. “Some are slow, leaving you standing, resigned, up and avenue where no one you know stays”. This direct metaphor emphasizes that childhood is difficult, especially when a person is trying to understand who they are. Duffy overall uses life-changing events that most people go through to give the reader a better understanding of the speaker’s struggle.

Equally important, in the poem “This is a Photograph of Me,” Atwood expresses the death of a girl which allows her to see herself in a more positive way after death. Even though the narrator is dead, subsequently, she is able to see herself in a more profound way than she saw herself when she was alive. When the narrator says “she is in the lake, in the center of the picture, just under the surface,” she sees herself better than others see her. This foreshadows how the narrator will later tell us that she is dead. In the meantime, through unexpected realizations, people need to look at small details to be able to find true identity. When the narrator says, “the photograph was taken the day after I drowned,” the readers are looking at the whole picture, not just the center. This is situational irony because the narrator is dead so how she is able to see the picture of the pond were she drowned. At length, Atwood creates an uncomfortable mood to help get her theme across. “[I]f you look long enough, eventually you will be able to see me”. Because of the first-person point of view, the reader understands that they must get to know a person to better understand who they are. To sum it up, Atwood uses a very uneasy mood to help the reader understand the poem as a whole.

Overall, a person’s identity overall can only be shared through their own personal experiences. For instance, Atwood uses a camp environment to help the characters find themselves. She does this by using all of the land features to help the characters and the reader understand how Lois changes for the better. On the other hand, Duffy uses life-changing events to help the characters find their identity. She uses immigration, a very hard event to go through, to show how immigration changes a person’s perspective on life. Atwood, in a similar way, uses a perspective from a dead character to help her characters find their true identity even when they do not see it themselves. The readers have to understand what Atwood is saying for them to be able to find the identity of the characters in the poem. Finally, unlike in the movie “Every day,” British literature authors and poets use many different life experiences to help characters find their true identities. They also use personal, life-changing events to help the reader understand the identity of the characters and also themselves.    

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The Development of Characters’ Identities in Contemporary British Literature. (2022, July 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from
“The Development of Characters’ Identities in Contemporary British Literature.” GradesFixer, 07 Jul. 2022,
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