Characters in plays and novels are usually multi-dimensional. Discuss to what extent this is true of important characters you have studied and comment on the techniques of characterisation used by the author.
Within the text Turgenev’s ‘Fathers and Sons’ Arkady’s personality loses some of its dimension as Turgenev values his impact upon the plot over developing upon his character. As such, he becomes a particularly one-dimensional character. From the very beginning of the text, Turgenev spends less time building him up and he is largely a slightly blurry figurehead. While this blur lends itself rather well to Arkady’s slightly bumbling and complacent mannerisms, we are nonetheless left with the impression that Arkady is more a tool within Turgenev’s writing than a personality in his own right.
Arkady is important within the text as it is only through interaction with him that the other significant characters eventually reach their end; he is necessary in the progression of Bazarov, Anna and Katya. Apart from this, Turgenev also uses him as a symbol for equilibrium. While Bazarov is ranting and raging and generally exercising the liberty that nihilism provides him with, Arkady shies from conflict and overall does little other than follow Bazarov with initial absolute loyalty. Though it is true that, like Bazarov and Anna, Arkady experiences a rite of passage and is forced to question his principles, this journey is significantly more understated and, as such, appears less important.
As we see throughout the text the importance and reverence Turgenev places upon adapting to change and general balance, Arkady’s ease in moulding to these two seem not so much to be characteristic to him, but more a method of illustrating Turgenev’s respect for these. Arkady’s happy ending as such adds a slightly moralistic aspect to the tone. This, in turn, paints Bazarov’s aptitude, power and passion in a poorer light and contrasts the two characters. This equilibrium, being a slightly less quirky characteristic than, for example, Bazarov’s nihilistic tendencies, does not seem to particularly further our understanding of Arkady. It is not so much that Arkady is an enigmatic character: indeed, we can infer quite the opposite. It is less a question of knowing less than there being less to know. Arkady is so useful as a character that any attempts to build up other dimensions of his character could well have impacted upon the plot and the way in which he influences other characters in text and helps us to understand these more complex personalities.
Bazarov and Anna are both multi-dimensional, as they are well built-upon throughout the text and their general backgrounds are highly detailed. We are told a large amount about their histories; in particular the way that this has changed them as people. Anna’s upbringing has forced her to be ruthless, enterprising and unemotional and thus has her seeking solace in routine and tranquillity, while Bazarov’s doting father has always incited him to question everything and evidently utterly adores his son; as such, Bazarov seeks justification for everything and is totally self-assured.
On the other hand, Arkady has had a childhood for the most part untroubled and comfortable. Though we are introduced to Pavel and Nikolai and see the respect he has for them, their effect upon him is chiefly unexplained. The level of physical detail of most of the major characters of the text is very high and Turgenev gives the reader a clear mental image; Anna has a ‘prominent forehead’ and magnificent shoulders, Pavel extremely well put together, even the mysterious Princess X has ‘…haunting eyes’. Arkady’s appearance, however, is never referred to in much detail, beyond that he has ‘a face so bright and boyish.’ In general, Turgenev characterises by refering to characteristics several times to highlight their importance and by allowing the reader to gather information about the psyches characters by giving them facts and details about the characters. This is not done to the same extent with Arkady, and, as such, he appears insignificant, blurry and more a figurehead than a personality in its own right. In many ways, the complacency which Arkady epitomises seems not so much to be a character trait as a lack of detail.
Arkady is very malleable and quick to change his mind. Though this could be considered in many ways to be a feature of his character, it seems in many ways to be more convenience as he is used as a tool within the text. He is important in regard to Bazarov as, without him, Bazarov’s emancipation could never have taken place. In addition to this, he provides the reader with a method to contrast Bazarov’s intensity.
When Arkady meets Anna, he is stunned by her looks and her general air of mystery and as such, finds himself self-professedly ‘in love’. This is important, not because it reveals much about Arkady, but because it furthers our idea that he is the counterpart to Bazarov’s passion. It is also a very typical reaction to have, and thus, as it is not unique in the same way that Bazarov and Anna’s actions are, Turgenev fails yet again to characterise and set Arkady apart. His relationship with Anna is also important as, in patronising him somewhat, it helps the reader to understand more about her: the way she sees herself as being older, that she is blinkered to Arkady’s subdued ardour and that she is motherly and slightly condescending. Her attitude to him is also colours her attitude to Katya who she views as his equal and the way Katya’s submissiveness has been affected by her upbringing by Anna.
Though there should be no doubt that Arkady is a significant character and that his impact upon the plot and the other individuals in the text is exceedingly important, he himself is largely uncoloured and loses a lot of personality in his usefulness. As such, the most important dimension to this character is how easily the writer can mould him to affect those around him. In doing so, Turgenev sacrifices our interest in the character and makes him principally one-dimensional, particularly in comparison to the extremely complex Bazarov and Anna.