26 July 2011
Character Descriptions and Race
If a main character is going to turn out to be a white supremacist with major conflict in a story, then I can understand the need to describe him in the stereotypical fashion, shaved head with a swastika tattooed on the back. In this case, the physical description moves the plot along. That’s helpful.
However, that is not the case with the story I submitted. I was a bit surprised when a fellow student asked, "I'm curious why you never described the main character. Was he black or white?"
It is a short story about the relationship between a father and son. The physical descriptions of the characters are irrelevant. This is not a screening for a movie where I have to choose Samuel L. Jackson or Tom Cruise as my hero. I can care less what color they are.
One response I read from another woman was she assumed every character in Harry Potter was black and she further states it is natural for a reader to assume that so long as no descriptions are given, all characters in a fictional story belong to the reader’s own race.
So what do you think? Is it that important to you as a reader to know the race of the characters you read about, even though clearly there is no logical reasoning behind mentioning it at all?