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The Concept Of The Outsider In Literature

7231 words - 29 pages

The Concept of the Outsider

Literature often persecutes the most vulnerable, a person who lacks support and therefore power within society. Described by Terry Eagleton for The Guardian as the “literary mainstream”; these characters are often referred to as the Outsider due to their exclusion from the community in which the text is set. The characters who are referred to as Outsiders can be portrayed in different ways; their initial exclusion from society can ultimately lead to a narrative of their acquisition of power throughout the text but similarly, can portray a story of their maintenance of the minimal power they have over the course of the text’s plot. However, this is not to argue ...view middle of the document...

My aim is to present the concept of the Outsider in a way that develops the idea that it is not a new or foreign concept but has been used within literature intentionally or unintentionally by authors throughout time.
How can an Outsider be defined?
An ‘Outsider’ is defined in two ways in Oxford Dictionary – firstly as “a person who does not belong to a particular organisation or profession” and then secondly as “a person who is not accepted by or who isolates themselves from society.” Essentially an Outsider will be someone who is excluded from a group or groups, whether that be by choice or by default. This develops an understanding that the features that make a character an Outsider have to be questioned as one can be considered to be an Outsider in some ways but not in others. There are blurred lines between someone who is considered an insider and an Outsider meaning that a reader or audience may struggle to define someone as solely an Outsider. What type of Outsider they are as outsiders can be argued to fit into two types, in which will be explored in the following essay: the social outsider, otherwise known as the demographic outsider, and the psychological outsider. It can be looked at like a Venn diagram in such as way that the two circles are two different people from different backgrounds but with similar attributes such as their religion. The characters do not overlap completely in one group because essentially they are different, but they do acquire similarities and therefore, may be insiders of the same group to do with one feature of their life but our outsiders to each other due to another feature. The complexities of the concept of the Outsider exist ultimately due to the different facets a character may have and consequently, increases the difficulty for the reader to understand whether a character is an Outsider. Different types of the outsider may be harder to notice in characters than others, which may result in more or less connections being made with parts of literature or film.
Simply, the social or demographic Outsider (according to Anthony King) is someone who emotionally and physically does not belong to a group and therefore, they are considered the Outsider to that group. In literature, a company of things that separate people in society whether it is social class, race, gender or religion can define the group as well as other things that define a character’s sense of identity. For example, their etiquette and mannerisms, or their hobbies. Though, it can be said that someone’s social class is intrinsically linked to the characters race, gender or religion, this in turn, will affect the difficulty and narrative of the character’s journey to seek a sense of belonging within a group. Literature written and set in patriarchal societies innately defines women as a collective outsider as they lack power and status due to the fact that they are women they lack certain aspects of their being, whether that would be...

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