Aristotle's Poetics

Mimetic Characterization in There, There College

In his literary theory treatise Poetics, Philosopher Aristotle explains that a successful tragedy must have characters who are improved-upon versions of their real-life subjects, making good, moral choices and appearing appropriate, lifelike, and consistent. In the first chapter of the novel There, There, author Tommy Orange supports Aristotle’s argument. Orange’s protagonist, a young drug dealer named Tony Loneman, is complex, experiencing challenges that many readers can relate to or sympathize with. Orange’s artful portrayal of this character helps illuminate Aristotle’s argument, proving that mimesis is key in captivating readers.

Tommy Orange’s sophisticated language enhances his representation of protagonist Tony Loneman. In Poetics, Aristotle writes, “Inasmuch as tragedy is an imitation of persons who are better than the average, the example of good portrait painters should be followed. These, while reproducing the distinctive appearance of their subjects in a recognizable likeness, make them handsomer in the picture than they are in real life” (112). Orange’s descriptions of Tony Loneman can certainly be compared to portrait painting. Because of his Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (“the Drome”), Tony has lower-than-average...

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