Department or Program



Character studies have long been shaped by the dominant critical methods arising during different periods of criticism. The structuralists, in the 1970s, transposed character from being understood as psychologically constructed to a mere linguistic effect of the text—an agent controlled by narrative function, event analysis, and syntactical categories. Barthes, together with Todorov and Greimas, proposed that narrative analysis no longer rely on character; character was in fact disposable. Guided by the terms flatness, distortion, nonsense, and the ordinary, this thesis will examine the character’s presence as its own thematic aspect of the text rather than as a symptom of it through novels such as Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, and Bernhard’s The Loser. Each of these texts plays with representation of the ordinary, sometimes privileging it and sometimes removing it entirely, resulting in a nonsensical narrative. Over 40 characters narrate journal entries in The Savage Detectives, each one of them unessential or minimal to the immediate development of the text, per Barthes; yet to throw any one of them away would be to lose or alter the meaning of the novel. That we often take for granted that narratives are unrealistic, exaggerating the richness of “life,” indulges in a distortion that, once removed, reveals flatness. The distorted and sometimes fantastical postmodern worlds of these narratives shoulder a purposeful absurdity present in literature that interrogating character lays bare.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Freedman, Sanford

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.