Can you give an example from a novel related to a change in character's life after a reading process or a habit of reading?What is the importance of reading in the character's life? Can you give an...

Can you give an example from a novel related to a change in character's life after a reading process or a habit of reading?

What is the importance of reading in the character's life? Can you give an important example?

Expert Answers
lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One recent example would be the character of Ugwu in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's award-winning novel Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) about the Biafran civil war and its aftermath. An illiterate servant at the beginning of the novel, the  houseboy lives in the shadow of his master Odenigbo, a charismatic university lecturer, and his wife Olanna. Ugwu becomes conscious of the importance of his own voice and his own perspective on the events he witnesses in the course of the novel, particularly after reading the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave: Written by Himself. Written in 1845, seven years after Douglass's escape from slavery, the narrative became a powerful tool for the abolitionist movement.

Ugwu begins to read it when the civil war has already broken out. He finishes it in two days and even learns by heart several sentences (see page 360 Harper Perennial paperback edition). In a later chapter, the wounded Ugwu talks to Richard, Olanna's sister's British expatriate lover who is in Biafra to wite a book about the country, and he tells him he found the Narrative in his refugee camp and felt "so sad and angry for the writer". Richard says he will use this anecdote in his book which he plans to write on the civil war and entitle The World Was Silent When We Died (p. 396). In fact, by end of the novel, we understand that the book, whose chapter summaries are interspersed throughout the main narrative of the novel, has been written by Ugwu. Inspired by the example of Douglass, the houseboy has turned into an author arguing that his own voice (not that of a British expatriate) should represent the events of the Biafran War.

sheiljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another example is Jean Louise "Scout" Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Scout reveals to readers that she was never taught to read, but learned to do so by sitting on her father's lap each evening as he read the daily paper. She notes that she doesn't recall when the lines of text became words and gained meaning for her. This is very much in line with what we know about how young children learn to read--mimicking parents' behaviors as literacy skills develop. Scout has difficulty when she begins school because her teacher tells her she must not read or write. Since she's learned from her father, the teacher believes everything Scout knows must be wrong. After all, her father (Atticus) is not a teacher. Scout states, "Until I feared I would lose it, I did not love to read. One does not love breathing." Furthermore, Scout attends church with her family's housekeeper, Calpurnia. Here she is amazed to find that most of the black congregation cannot read. This is a shock to her; reading seems such a natural and important process that she can't comprehend living without it.  Through the rest of the novel, we see that for such a young child, Scout has an uncanny intelligence and understanding of the world. Her early acquisition of reading skills certainly contributed to her world view in the novel.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best example I can think of is an excellent coming-of-age novel titled A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It is a story about a young girl growing up in a slum environment and blossoming into an intelligent, well educated, and successful young woman just because she loves to read. The author's name is Betty Smith, and the novel is pretty much autobiographical. It was made into a motion picture in 1945 with the same title, and this film, directed by the famous Elia Kazan, is probably available on DVD. I have often recommended this book about a person who loves to read to people who love to read. Male or female, they will identify with this introspective girl whose great pleasure in life is to curl up in a private hideaway and read for hours on end.