Not a Clear Distinction

Essay Section: Thesis

A play represents the best example of people functioning differently in different roles. A character in prose (e.g., fiction, nonfiction, short story) is also no different. Each character within a work serves a function. There is always present a protagonist and an antagonist. There are other supporting characters in different roles that fulfill different relationships to the main characters. The important thing to remember is that if we don’t know who says what, then we won’t know how to approach the writing and/or revision process of the paper. Let’s read the following excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

The reader reveals the confusion felt by Lockwood’s statement of Heathcliff, because his perception doesn’t ring accurate to what has already been said.  First, Lockwood speculates about the surrounding and the character of Heathcliff, but in another breath he “knows” Heathchliff.  This doesn’t necessarily say that Lockwood is contradicting himself.  But it does suggest “that the narrator cannot be neutral” and that the narrator is “openly uncertain” about the information he filters from the story to us (Marsh 10).  The information presented to the reader is thin and remains to be full through vague distances within the novel.  And Lockwood basically “. . . projects his own character onto Heathcliff” (Marsh 14).  But Lockwood isn’t the only narrator the reader cannot rely on.  Where Lockwood projects, Nelly Dean interferes with the story.

Figure 22: Essay Excerpt on Heathcliff and Lockwood, Wuthering Heights


1) Is the reader a character in the story?

2) Does “his” refer to the “reader” or to “Heathcliff”?

3) About what “surroundings” does Lockwood speculate?

4) What is the difference between “to speculate” and “to know”?

5) How can the information be both thin and full?

6) What are the vague distances within the novel?

7) How does Lockwood project his own character? What are his beliefs and what does he project?

The reader is not a character in a work. The author never writes with you as the reader in mind.  He or she writes to get whatever that is inside out in the open and onto the page. The words on the page represent the warrings of an author’s mind, his beliefs and the contemplation of the best way to present his beliefs without showing too much vulnerability.

In the excerpt, every sentence before both sets of bolded lines is not clear in distinction in terms of logic, i.e., what happens first, second, and third, and so on; it is not clear “who” does what to whom. The sentences bolded before the quote and after it do not represent clear distinctions, because the reader lacks comprehension of the ideas expressed within the text.

If the reader doesn’t comprehend the text and/or doesn’t understand its message, this lack of understanding will show up in the writing. A professor can always tell the difference between a student who has read the text, in its entirety, and one who has only skimmed a few pages; or one who has begun reading and has stopped midway without reading all the way to the end. If you read the whole text, you will know the relationship and dialogue between characters.

Since I am the student writer of this excerpt, I have a confession to make. I did not completely read the text for this paper. I read just enough to get an idea of who the characters were, what their relationships were to each other, and how I might start the paper. I stopped midway in the reading of the class text. I did not find it important enough to continue reading.  Instead, I just wanted to hurry up and finish. I had no patience for the class or the discipline.–Regina Y. Favors

In essence, when you don’t take the time to get a good understanding of your purpose (i.e. read the text fully in order to write the paper), you will not be able to make clear distinctions within your paper. If you only read the first five chapters, anything that you write about after these chapters will represent mere assumptions about the text as a whole.

With this in mind, read the whole text. Get to know the characters, their feelings, motivations, attitudes, belief systems, and their relations to other characters in the text. Then you will know how to paint a clearer and distinctive picture.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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