Attitude, in literature, refers to the perspective or tone that a writer adopts in their work. It is the manner in which a writer develops characters, describes stories, and designs narratives. A writer's attitude reveals their feelings and beliefs about the subject matter and helps readers gain deeper insights into characters and themes. This literary technique can be serious, humorous, critical, or witty, and it plays a crucial role in conveying the writer's emotions and viewpoints.
Distinguishing Attitude in Literature
Attitude is a versatile literary device that serves multiple functions in literary works:
1. Character Expression: Attitude provides characters with distinct voices and personalities, allowing readers to understand their perspectives, beliefs, and attitudes towards various aspects of life.
2. Setting the Tone: Writers use attitude to set the tone of their works, creating an emotional backdrop that guides readers' reactions and interpretations of the narrative.
3. Conveying the Writer's Perspective: Attitude serves as a vehicle for writers to express their own viewpoints, feelings, and beliefs about the subject matter, which can resonate with or challenge readers.
Examples of Attitude in Literature
Example #1: "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger
“All morons hate it when you call them a moron.”
“If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late? Nobody.”
“Goddamn money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.”
“Catholics are always trying to find out if you’re Catholic.”
In J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, showcases a sarcastic and critical attitude through his dialogue. These remarks not only reveal Holden's personality but also offer insights into the writer's perspective on various aspects of life. The character becomes a mouthpiece for Salinger's attitude and thinking.
Example #2: "The School" by Donald Barthelme
“And the trees all died. They were orange trees. I don’t know why they died, they just died. Something wrong with the soil possibly or maybe the stuff we got from the nursery wasn’t the best. We complained about it. So we’ve got thirty kids there, each kid had his or her own little tree to plant and we’ve got these thirty dead trees. All these kids looking at these little brown sticks, it was depressing.”
In Donald Barthelme's "The School," the author employs an attitude characterized by gloom and negativity. The choice of words like "dead" and "depressing" infuses the passage with a somber tone. The attitude reflects the unexpected death of trees, symbolizing life, and contributes to the overall mood of the story.
Example #3: "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
In Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken," the attitude is evident in the speaker's use of the word "sigh" in the final stanza. This expression of nostalgia reflects the writer's attitude toward the past, suggesting that the speaker made a challenging choice and now looks back on it with a sense of longing.
Function of Attitude
The primary function of attitude in literature is to shape and enhance the narrative. It guides readers in how to approach and interpret the text, evoking specific emotions and reactions. Attitude is a tool for writers to convey seriousness, comedy, or distress and helps readers connect with the story on an emotional level. It not only gives voice to characters but also reveals their personalities, beliefs, and viewpoints, enriching the reader's understanding of the narrative.