What details does author Clemence McLaren use to humanize Helen in Chapter One of her book Inside the Walls of Troy: A Novel of the Woman Who Lived the Trojan War?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Part One: Helen's Story" of Inside the Walls of Troy: A Novel of the Woman Who Lived the Trojan War, author Clemence McLaren craftily humanizes Helen using both direct and indirect characterization.

In direct characterization, an author comes out and tells us directly about what the character is like through the voice of the narrator. Chapter One begins with a paragraph of narration written in Helen's adult voice as she describes the fact that her society and historians say a war was fought due to Helen's beauty. Yet, she continues to describe that "behind" her legendary, beautiful face "was a girl named Helen, who loved horses, played the flute, bit her nails" (p. 3). This sentence is an example of using direct characterization to tell us what Helen both loves and does, what some of her virtues as well as her vices are. More importantly, only real girls "love horses," bite their fingernails, and play musical instruments; so, not only does the sentence directly characterize Helen, the details in the sentence also serve to humanize Helen.

Authors use indirect characterization to tell their readers about a character through the character's actions and dialogue with other characters, rather than coming out and describing the character directly. We see indirect characterization being used in Helen's conversation with her cousin Penelope. Through this exchange, we learn that Helen is playing knucklebones, that she can be a bit snappish, and is even quite rebellious, which, again, are all things real girls do and are. Therefore, all of these details serve to humanize Helen.

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Inside the Walls of Troy

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