A Friend Sealed in A Pen
“We read to know that we are not alone.”― C.S. Lewis. Storytelling has always been a tool in sharing knowledge; may it be for myth, education purpose, cultural context, or just socializing. I myself think reading a book is like going into an adventure with a company. The company is, of course, the characters itself. So, characterization, to me, holds an essential stance in all readings. Some authors, for example Caroline Allen, even begin developing a character, precursor to the plot. Here is an example of her writing – http://artofstorytelling.wordpress.com/2007/10/09/on-characterization/. Gawande, on the other hand, has his own method in building a character, in his writing, “The Itch” (wk 5b Character development).
In “The Itch” , Gawande brings us to an emotional roller-coaster ride of M, the main character. Gawande does not elaborate M’s physical appearance, let alone her name. To me personally, his narrative account is like a background song, in a movie scene. She sets up the play, but she gives us the space to visualize M according to our own will; how M looks like, how does she appear in front of people, will she be heartwarming and charming, or tense and cold.
Gawande has been building up a dramatic tension about M straight from the beginning. I find the repetitive pronouns of “she”, and the short sentences intensified the situation. “She had graduated…. She and her family settled in…. She and her husband started fighting… her marriage disintegrated..”A sequence of events is presented in such a fast phased manner. It portrays a chaotic troubled surrounding M, which immerses you in M’s world even deeper. And do you notice the verbs in the writing are “relatable”? They are common occurrences in our everyday life. But then, by the time Gawade reaches the main issue, the itch, Gawande presents something unusual. This illness that we have learnt M is suffering from, evokes our sympathy; as if M has shared with us, a lifetime’s secret. And just like that, M has become like a real, close friend.
Another noticeable thing about Gawande’s writing is his descriptive account of events. In the first four pages, we only get to see a minimum fair of M’s real feelings, all related to “the itch”. A significant association like this shifts our attention from M, the main character, to “the itch”. I feel as if I am drawn back to the real world, and become an observer instead in M’s world. Gawande’s allows us to see the pain M has to suffer, and intrigues our conscience to know more about “the itch”, in order to help many other M’s.
Overall, in my opinion, Gawande has successfully developed a really engaging story, using the character “M”. What do you think? Has “M” become a “friend” of yours too? 🙂