Stock Characters, Response and Situation


A story, talking in the simplest and the most general terms, comprises various factors that lead to its completion as well as it gives full sense. The various parts in a story are plot, character, setting, diction and the like. Then we have the different types of characters that a novelist or a dramatist brings into his work so as to bring a variety into his works. 

One such type of character is the stock character. Stock characters are the types of characters that occur repeatedly in a particular literary genre, and thus may be recognized as part of the conventions of the form. Therefore, these characters hold a prime importance in all such dramas. 

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During the analysis of such types of literary works, there are chances that literature students may face problems with that and thus require assignment help with the same.

An example of such stock characters can be found in the Old Comedy of the Greeks, which has three stock characters whose interactions with each other gave way to the movement of the plot:

  1. Amazon or the impostor, or the self-deceiving braggart 
  2. Eiron or the self-derogatory or the understanding character. This character’s conflict with the amazon is what gives the comic effect to the plot. 
  3. Bomolochus or the buffoon, whose antics add an extra element of comedy in the work. 

In his Anatomy of Criticism written in 1957, Northrop Frye revived all these old terms and added a fourth one known as the agroikos, who was a rustic character and an easily deceivable one as well. He then identified the persistence of these types in comic plots up to our own time. The Italian commedia Dell’arte revolved around such stock characters like .

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The plot of an Elizabethan romantic comedy such as the Twelfth Night or the As You Like It by William Shakespeare, often had their stock characters as a heroine disguised as a handsome young man. Similarly, the stock character in the Elizabethan comedy of intrigue was the clever servant who connived with his master, in order to fleece another stock character, the stupid gull. 

The same happened in Volpone by Ben Jonson, in which the servant Mosca connived with his master Volpone, in order to deceive other characters. The nineteenth century comedy, on stage as well as in fiction, used a monocle, a defective sense of humour and an exaggerated Oxford accent to exploit the stock Englishman. In the Western stories and films, we saw the tight-lipped sheriff who lets his gun do the talking, as a stock character, while the stoical Hemingway hero is a familiar figure in modern fiction, who is disillusioned but faithful to his primal code of honour and loyalty in a civilisation they had grown effete or corrupt. 

In the fiction of the 1950s, we had a stock character as a hipster known as Beat who was an alienated protagonist, who with or without the help of drugs, had opted out of the establishment. 

According to various research paper writings, in some literary forms such as the morality plays as well as Ben Jonson’s comedy of humours, we do not need anything other than the type characters to achieve the artistic aims. But even when we talk about the realistic literary forms, the artistic success of a protagonist does not depend on whether or not an author includes the established type but on the fact that how well the type is re-created as a convincing individual who is able to fulfil his or her function in the overall plot. Here we can take into consideration two of Shakespeare’s greatest characters who are patently conventional- Falstaff, in a partial manner is a re-rendering of the Vice, who, in the medieval morality play, was a comic tempter, and in part of the familiar braggart soldier, or miles glorious, of the Renaissance or Roman comedy, whose ancestry can be traced back to the Greek amazon, and Hamlet combines some stock attributes of the Elizabethan melancholic man with those of the hero of the Elizabethan revenge tragedies. 

As a matter of fact, Elizabeth Bennet, the delightful protagonist of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, can be traced back through the Restoration comedy to the type of witty, intelligent and dauntless heroines that give life to the romantic comedies of Shakespeare.

Stock response was used as a derogatory term for a reader’s reaction that is habitual or stereotyped one, in place of one which is aptly responsive to a given literary passage. The term is sometimes applied to the author’s response themselves to their own characters, topics or situations that they set forth in a work. However, in the most general terms, it is used to describe the standard or inadequate responses of the readers of the work. In his Practical Criticism, I. A. Richards gave currency to this term by analysing stock responses by students and other respondents who wrote critiques of unidentified poems.

Stock situations are the counterparts of stock characters, in the fact that they are recurrent types of incidents or of sequences of actions in a narrative or drama. Incidents range from single situations or events like eavesdropping by a person hidden behind a bush to the discovery of some will or birthmark, to the overall pattern of the plot. 

An example of such a situation can be found in the Horatio Alger books for boys, which were written in mid-nineteenth century America. These books contain all variations on the stock plot of rags to riches by pluck and luck. In fact, we can evidently see in the opening scene, the standard boy-meets-girl incident, in many motion pictures.

Therefore, these were a few points on the stock character, response and situation, that are sufficient enough to offer assignment help to students.