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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Character focalization in four children's novels : a stylistic inquiry Philpot, Donald Kent


This study examined the selection and development of character focalization in four children’s novels. Character focalization was defined as the location of fictional world perception in the mind of a character. Novels by Meindert DeJong, Katherine Paterson, and Susan Patron were analyzed using systemic-functional resources (Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004), narrative concepts, and a model of focalization described by Rimmon-Kenan (Narrative Fiction, 2002). The study showed that one character in each novel is selected and developed as the prominent fictional world sensory perceiver, emoter, and thinker. Moonta Riemersma in Far Out the Long Canal (DeJong, 1964), Jess Aarons in Bridge to Terabithia (Paterson, 1977), Gilly Hopkins in The Great Gilly Hopkins (Paterson, 1978), and Lucky Trimble in The Higher Power of Lucky (Patron, 2006) are selected and developed as focalizing characters in and beyond the first few chapters of their novels. Distinctive seeing-, hearing-, emoting-, and thinking-patterns obtain in the first few chapters and are subsequently developed according to the principles of continuation, augmentation, or reconfiguration. These distinctive patterns represent the focalized, the people and things perceived. All four characters selected as focalizers are cognitively-engaged individuals, and their thinking reveals their personal understandings about themselves, others, and their lived experiences. This study offers a rich description of four focalizations and a methodology for exploring character focalization in fiction for children, adolescents, and adults. The author suggests that students in fourth through sixth grade will benefit academically and personally by exploring questions centering on focalization in the novels they read, discuss, and reflect on at school.

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