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Intentional Flatness

Lynn's picture

 A recurring complaint that we (my section, at least) seem to have is that the characters in the novels we have read are too "flat". By "flat", we mean - or, at least, I think we mean - that the characters display a limited range of emotions, and I personally define "flatness" as a lack of both inner and outer conflict in addition to no observable personality. I thought that the characters in Generosity were flat, particularly because I felt that the author was faking his understanding of them, but I don't really agree with the general opinion that the characters in The Plague are flat. I think that the characters in The Plague are underwritten, but deliberately so; the "iceberg model" is often suggested in creative writing, and I think that Camus simply took it to an extreme. What readers are shown about the characters in the novel is only the tiniest portion of their entire personalities - we are shown exactly what we would see if we happened to be observing them on the street corner, perhaps, and for me this creates a sense of reality and familiarity that I think the novel really needs. Moreover, I think that Camus intended for his underwritten characters to be familiar, and to suggest that pointlessness - sorry, the plague - of life follows everyone. The lack of definite characterization in the novel means that readers cannot write off any disturbing conclusions they reach as the unique trouble of a few individuals. 

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