Characters and the author

When we read a piece of literature, is it the author’s personality breaking free? Looking at biographical context, it’s pretty hard to deny that their life had some influences. Orwellian (Real name Eric Arthur Blair) fiction tends to address ideas about free speech/thought, society and ideology, and he was said to be a freethinker and argumentative as a child, just like the rebellious Julia in 1984 and possibly the demented Winston, who he imagines raping and murdering. Virginia Woolf, another opinionated writer, had strong views about women and women writers in her essays A Room of One’s Own and has strong female characters like Lily Briscoe and Mrs Dalloway, as well as belonging to the radical Bloomsbury Group. Point is, when we read a novel, play, poem or other piece of literature, are we in fact just seeing the multiple different sides to an author’s personality manifest itself in their characters. Postructuralism – which believes the reader has more power in creating meaning – would probably say no, but with some writers you can’t help but wonder. Especially in semi-autobiographical or autobiographical novels and lyrical poetry.

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