This article covers,
1. What is Voice?
– Voice of the Author
– Voice of Characters
2. How Does Voice Affect Characterization?
– Explanation with Examples
What is Voice
The term voice has two different meanings in literature: the voice of the author and the voice of the characters.
Voice of the Author
The voice of the author refers to the style used by the author. Authors often use a distinctive style in a particular piece of writing. They often use recurrent words, syntax, imagery, symbols, etc. which make them distinguishable from other writers.
Voice of the Characters
Each person has distinctive speech patterns; they construct words, phrases, and ideas according to their individual styles. This style makes the voice of that character. Authors use different qualities and styles for different characters. This voice will express direct and indirect information to the readers.
How Does Voice Affect Characterization
The voice of a character can indirectly reveal a lot of information about a person. It can expose a person’s educational, social background, and even his or her state of mind. Let’s look at some examples from literature to understand this idea better.
“It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened- Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many.”
The above excerpt, taken from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, is a description given in the voice of the protagonist, Huckleberry Finn. The grammar errors such as they was, would have took, etc. reflect the education and social background of the character. If you have read the novel, you’d know that Huck actually comes from a lower class, and that he is not educated. But randomly reading this quote can also help you to come to this conclusion.
“My situation in life, my connections with the family of de Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should take it into further consideration, that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.”
The above excerpt taken from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a dialogue uttered by Mr. Collins. You can observe several distinct rhetoric features such as long sentence structure, repetition of the word my, I and me, formal speech, etc. The style or voice author has used for this character reflects qualities such as pompousness, condescension, and arrogance of Mr. Collins. Even a person who has not read the novel can guess what kind of a man he is by reading this excerpt. This is because the voice that has been used for Mr. Collins reflects and develops his character.
- Voice can refer to the style of the writer or the distinctive speech patterns used for different characters.
- Voice can reveal lot of direct information about a person
- Factors like education, social background, native language, and state of mind can be revealed through the voice.
“Thomson-PP11” By Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) – Lilly Library, Indiana University (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia