Aspects of Characterization



The use of literary devices such as diction and symbolism are crucial elements in
establishing characterization. The diction, writer’s choice of words, much be appropriate
for the characters and the situations in which the author places them (Meyer 234).
Therefore, William Faulkner’s diction in “A Rose for Emily” will differ greatly from
Ernest Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home.” Hemingway uses the Kreb’s family home and
Faulker uses the element of time as symbols. The home and the element of time are
symbolic because each has meanings that go beyond its specific qualities and functions
(Meyer 194). Setting also plays a major role in characterization. Setting is the context in
which the action of a story occurs (Meyer 137). If one is sensitive to the contexts
provided by setting, one is better able to understand the behavior of the characters and the
significance of their actions (Meyer 137). In order to understand Miss Emily it would be
useless to place her in the same setting as Krebs and vice versa.
Different words evoke different associations in a reader’s mind, diction is crucial
in controlling a reader’s response (Meyer 234). Faulkner’s choice of words allows the
readers to vividly picture Miss Emily’s physical traits as well as her attitude. By
describing the Grierson house, Faulkner is cleverly inviting an observation of Miss Emily.

It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated
with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome
style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street.
But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the
august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left,
lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the
gasoline pumps - an eyesore among eyesores. (Meyer 71)

Miss Emily was a woman that kept to herself. She lived in a time when socializing with
the other women and being married at a certain age was necessary. Miss Emily somehow
managed to stray away from the norm. Faulkner shows Miss Emily’s reclusion through
the sparse use of dialogue between Miss Emily and other people. Krebs like Miss Emily
was going through a period of seclusion. They were experiencing these feelings for
different reasons. Hemingway avoided the usage of elaborate and dramatic diction. The
words are basic and allows the reader to get into Kreb’s mind. The reader is able to listen
not only to what Krebs thinks but to how he thinks (Meyer 235).

He tried so to keep his life from being complicated. Still, none of it has
touched him. He had felt sorry for his mother and she had made him lie.
He would go to Kansas City and get a job and she would feel all right
about it. There would be one more scene maybe before he got away. He
would not go down to his father’s office. He would miss that one. He
wanted his life to go smoothly. It had just gotten going that way. Well,
that was all over now, anyway. He would go over to the school yard and
watch Helen play indoor baseball. (Meyer 144)

The majority of the sentences begin with the word “He.” Hemingway’s choice of diction
reflects Krebs firm determination to make, one step at a time, a clean, unobstructed break
from his family and the entangling complications they would impose on him (Meyer
235). Through the effective use of diction it is easy to gain insight into Miss Emily and
Krebs.
A symbol is a vehicle for two things at once: It functions as itself, and it implies
meanings beyond itself (Meyer 635). Faulkner and Hemingway use literary symbols that
have a significant impact on their characters overall attitudes. A literary symbol can
include traditional, conventional, or public meanings, but it may also be established
internally by the total context of the work in which it appears (Meyer 194). Hemingway
strayed away from the conventional meaning of home. Krebs did not find comfort,
happiness, peace, or safety in his family’s home. Krebs home becomes symbolic of
provincial, erroneous presuppositions compounded by blind innocence, sentimentality,
and smug middle-class respectability (Meyer 194). After returning “home” from war,
Kreb’s was not in the position to share the same view of the world as his family and
friends. He was used to being in an environment where it was only the strong survive.
Their notions of love, the value of a respectable job, and a belief in God seem to him
petty, complicated, and meaningless (Meyer