A Point of View: How Readers Identify With Fictional Characters
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
By: Youth Ambassador Oliver Hallett
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) is an alright film that struggles with being a re-telling of a well known origin story, but there was one part of it that always stuck with me. At the very end of the movie, Peter Parker sits down in his English class as his teacher says that “there’s only one plot in all of fiction: who am I?”. While that’s more often used as a theme rather than a plot, it’s a statement that I often find myself thinking about. So much of the human experience is tied up in identity so of course that’s also the case in the fiction we create, whether or not we do it on purpose. The same goes for our relationships with the fiction we consume; what we enjoy or dislike in fiction, our favourite genres, and how we prefer to engage with it all get tied up in who we are as individuals. And, of course, we can’t forget the characters we relate to.
I’m always interested in learning which character(s) someone connects with in any given piece of media, especially how and why. Everything from shared experiences, to a character embodying one’s ideals, to consistently having the same reactions as one another, and beyond intrigues me. I’m also a big advocate for reading stories that you might think you can’t relate to as it’s helpful in trying to understand people outside of yourself and/or your circumstances, but I’m most fascinated by what makes people form such strong connections with certain characters. Was it an instant connection or did it take some time for the character to grow on you? Do you tend to relate to similar characters or is each attachment noticeably different from the last? Did something happen within the story that made a certain character no longer relatable to you or have you moved on to a new phase of your life?
My sense of identity has been in various stages of flux throughout the years and thus I have latched onto many different characters, though not all of them have continued to be relatable to me in the present moment. Regardless of how long I was able to see myself in them, they were all characters I needed at the points in my life where I did relate to them. Experiencing those characters helped me grow and gave me a way to better understand myself. And that’s something I really enjoy helping others find for themselves - whether it be through a fun personality quiz, or being asked for recommendations, or introducing a friend to a story that I know they’ll connect with.
Digitally Lit has given me even more opportunities to do exactly that, as well as the chance to branch out and engage with stories that I might not have otherwise. I’m glad that I have this opportunity to promote literacy through the personal connections a reader can form with the characters within books. It’s an underrated aspect of our development, I think - learning more about ourselves through the fiction we consume - and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of listening to people describe their experiences with discovering parts of themselves through fiction. If there truly is “only one plot” then it applies to the reader just as much as the characters within the fiction. Who are you?
To keep up to date with Oliver's book reviews, you can follow him on Instagram by clicking here.
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