Characterization is the change that occurs in a character
throughout the story. The change can be either a physical
one or an emotional one. In the stories "Strong Horse Tea,"
by Alice Walker and "The Suicides of Private Greaves," by
James Moffett, the characters involved go through changes
that effect both stories ending. Characterization also
occurs in stories through the eyes of other characters and
how they view the main person in a story.
A character's change in the story will eventually lead to
the resolution, and inevitably the end of the story. In
"Strong Horse Tea" the main characters change is very
evident. Rannie Mae Toomer's change in the story is
apparent to the reader and audience. She (Rannie) goes
through both an emotional change as well as a change in her
beliefs (both spiritually and on how she viewed people.)
Rannie is a black woman living in America during its
oppressive years, with her only salvation being her infant
son, Snooks. Her son is very sick and in desperate need of
medicine. Rannie is convinced that a white doctor will come
and visit her and take care of her son. Rannie, however,
does not realize her situation, and hopes still that a
doctor will come. "Lawd, why don't that doctor come on
here?" Rannie keeps on hoping, and not allowing Sarah, the
witch doctor to help her. Rannie believes that Sarah help
will be evil, and that the white doctor will soon come. 'We
going to have us a doctor,' Rannie Toomer said fiercly,
walking over to shoo a fat winter fly from her child's
forehead. 'I don't belive in none of that swamp magic.'
Rannie is unaware of who she is and how others view her.
She does not realize that the color of her skin is
oppressing her. Rannie is convinced that the mailman (her
only connection to the outside world) can help her out. The
mailman, however, has other views about Rannie. He sees her
as an animal ("Rannie Mae, leaning over him out of the rain
smelt like a wet goat." ) with absolutely no intelligence
("Today he thought she looked more ignorant than usual^. )
Rannie is convinced that the mailman will get her doctor
for her, but as the time passes she comes to the
realization that Sarah is her only hope. 'But I told you,'
Rannie Toomer said in exasperation, as if explaining
something to a backward child. 'I asked the mailman to
bring a doctor for my Snooks.'
The reader can see the desperation that Rannie is
experiencing when she finally lets Sarah help the dying
child. "Rannie began to cry, moaning," the reader can see
the emotional change that Rannie is going through. Rannie's
has to give up on her faith and view on life, with the slim
chance that it will save her baby. 'Here,' she cried,
snatching up the baby and handing him to Sarah. "Make him
well. O my Lawd, make him well!'
At this point in the story, the reader knows that the
conflict will be resovled. Rannie is at a point of
hopelessness and will do almost anything Sarah tells her to
do to try and save her son. "'I'll do anything you say do,
Aunt Sarah,' she cried^." The reader sees the visible
change in Rannie's outlook. She is now willing to accept
the withc remedies that earlier in the story she
disregarded. Rannie accepts this situation, because she
finally realizes the position that she is in.
Sarah tells Rannie that the only way to cure Snooks, is if
he drinks "Strong Horse Tea," which the reader can infer is
horses' urine. Rannie proceeds in the pouring rain to go
and fetch some. Out of pure despair, Rannie is forced to
store the "tea" in her mouth because she has forgotten a
container. The ironic part, sadly, is that the reader
already knows that Rannie's baby has passed away, and
Rannie will not be able to save him; "^ the frail breathing
had stopped with the thunder, not to come again." Rannie
has gone through a psychological change at the end of the
story. She has come to the awareness of her situation and
now has to come to face it. She realizes that she is of
color, and that the world will treat her differently. In
coming to this realization, Rannie also has to put her
beliefs aside so that she can try to save her son. Rannie
understands that her beliefs will have to come second to
trying to save her son. Rannie's son Snooks also goes
through a change, but his is a physical one. Snooks at the
end of the story dies, and therefore has changed. In "The
Suicides of Private Greaves," the change in the characters
is also a physical one as well as an emotional one. Private
Greaves goes through a physical change because in the end
of the story he dies, while the Colonel goes through an
emotional change while trying to convince Greaves not to
kill himself. Greaves can be seen as the main character in
the story, but he really is not. The story just revolves
around him and the choices he makes. The main character is
actually the institution of the army itself and how it goes
through change as one of its members try to kill himself.
Greaves is enlisted in the army, and for reason the reader
never really finds out, tries to kill himself on several
occasions. He says that he "^hates soldiers," and therefore
wanted to kill himself. The author never reveals more
information about Greaves. The reader is never really sure
as to why Greaves want to kill himself and is never
informed. The character that is most affected in this story
is the Colonel. He goes through an emotional change when he
sees Private Greaves standing on the ledge getting ready to
jump; "From where Greaves leaned against the circular iron
The colonel goes into regression and starts thinking about
the past, and how he was unable to save a life of a friend.
The Colonel decides that he needs to help Private Greaves
because he was unable to help his friend. Someone ruined
him as I ruined Ralph. ^ Could I stop him if I hollered to
him? But Ralph never came back when I called. But the kid
may die in a minute.
The reader is able to see the Colonel emotional change in
that paragraph. A military colonel is supposed to be rigid
and cold with no emotions, but this Colonel is going
thorough major problems in his head. He is remembering when
he could not save the life of his friend and hope and prays
that he can help Greaves not kill his life. The Colonel
efforts however are not persuasive enough to help Greaves,
and he (Greaves) takes his own life; "Presently he saw the
shapeless, half-created bay between the rungs."
A Character plays a crucial role in the story, and how they
grow as characters helps the story come to an end. The
character development helps the conflict become resolved.


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