a stock character

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Moon Palace, Sep 2, 2007.

  1. Moon Palace

    Moon Palace Senior Member

    Hello again,
    Trying to finish off the study of JA, here is another quote in which I don't understand the phrase 'stock character':

    'Austen has deliberately and obviously made Mr Wickham a stock character in order to point to Elizabeth's central moral weakness, that she does not take life seriously.'

    I have a feeling it is a common literary phrase, but I can't really see what it means. Is it like a foil? This supposition seems hardly acceptable given the context: Wickham is morally weak, and he does not take life seriously, so that he can't be used as the contrary to her. It seems to go in the opposite direction judging by the sentence. I am lost...
    Thanks for your help.
  2. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    I am a bit puzzled by the sentence.

    I can tell you that "stock character" refers to a character that is a cliché, one who's personality, mannerisms, or behavior are predictable or stereotypical.

    Stock characters in movies might be the oblivious parents, the apathetic teacher, the dumb and violent bully, etc. These characters have magnified flaws and quirks, they are almost machines rather than characters that think, learn, or change. Stock character in James Bond movies are the ruthless henchmen or the psychopathic genius villains.
  3. Moon Palace

    Moon Palace Senior Member

    Thanks a lot Bibliolept! Now it does make sense indeed: in fact, the critic is saying that Wickham's flaws have been exaggerated - as they are in a stock character I take it - pointedly so as to make Elizabeth's liking of him evidence of her own weakness of character. Had he been less striking in his profile she couldn't have been accused of weakness or of lack of seriousness.
    As we say in French: youpi!! That one is solved.
  4. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    A stock character is a stereotypical character, easily recognisable to the reader. Since Wickham shares some faults with Elizabeth but to a greater degree, perhaps the idea is that he mirrors and magnifies them for us whilst bringing her faults to our attention through his interaction with her. Definition from Wikipedia follows:
    A stock character is a character that relies heavily on cultural types or stereotypes for his or her personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes, but they are often more narrowly defined. Stock characters are a key component of genre providing relationships and interactions that people familiar with the work's genre will recognize immediately. Stock characters make easy targets for parody, and the parody will likely exaggerate any stereotypes associated with these characters.
  5. Moon Palace

    Moon Palace Senior Member

    Thanks Arrius for this addendum, it confirms indeed. I had not for once looked on Wikipedia, thinking this phrase would not be mentioned there. Never think not... ;)

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