Introverts in Fiction

This photo "reading on the roof" is (c) 2008 Raul Lieberwirth and made available under an Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives license.
This photo “reading on the roof” is (c) 2008 Raul Lieberwirth and made available under an Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives license.

How are introverts represented in fictional books and movies and how does this effect how people view us? While thinking about writing a post on my favourite introverted characters, I’ve felt at a loss to come up with a good list!

Turning to the internet for examples, I found that a lot of fictional introverts come from old books, rather than new books or movies (I’m not a big TV person, so I’ll leave out that topic). Mr. Darcy and Jane Bennet (both from Pride & Prejudice) and Jane Eyre come to mind. Jane Eyre is a particularly great example of a character who is introverted but not shy–she’ll speak her mind when she wants to, but is often content on her own or with her few good friends.

I’ve read also that Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables may be an introvert. Anyone who knows of the book (and sequels) will know that Anne is a chatterbox who often gets into trouble… but she also never seems to tire of her own imagination/company. And she seems to feel most comfortable with those she considers to be “kindred spirits” instead of with just anyone. Just because she’s not shy in the least, doesn’t mean she can’t be an introvert.

In modern books and movies I can think of, introverts are often portrayed as shy and their shyness is something that they have to overcome during the course of the story. The French movie Amelie comes to mind. I love, love Amelie and recommend it to everyone. It’s great to see a movie with a quiet lead character who at the conclusion has not magically become super outgoing–but still has developed a lot as a character.

Another example of shy introverted characters comes from novels by young adult author Sarah Dessen. As a teenager I read, like, all of her novels, which usually starred introverted female characters who were stuck in some sort of rut in the summertime and would meet some new people (which always included one cute guy) who brought her out of her shell. My favourite one was The Truth About Forever, about high school student Macy whose dad died and mom now wants her to be perfect, from having the perfect summer job to the perfect grades, etc. But Macy is unhappy. I wouldn’t describe Macy as shy necessarily, but she’s definitely passive until she figures a few things out… with the help of her outgoing new friends who get her to be more outgoing (though admittedly, one of her new friends is actually super quiet and ends up giving her great wisdom, too).

Anyway, I loved those books and think they’re good for teenage girls mostly, and I love Amelie too, but why is it so difficult to think of modern introverted characters who aren’t shy in some way? I know that the point of a lot of fiction is for the main character to develop, but it is possible to separate introversion from shyness.

I think how introverts are portrayed in the media definitely impacts how we think of them in real life–but really, I know of so many introverts who I would never describe as shy. Awkward at times, yes, but not shy. Is it just difficult to portray diverse types of introverts, especially in movies and TV shows?

Do you know of any introverted fictional characters who break the mold, and what do you think about how shyness and introversion are often latched together?

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3 thoughts on “Introverts in Fiction

  1. I think this is a very good analysis. It’s quite hard it seems, for characters to be portrayed as introverted in general. In movie making, it’s expected (and more acceptable), to have characters that fit into clearly defined boxes. For example, the introvert with a quick wit or one who is chatty, is complex in the world of film, and does not fit nicely into a box. This makes it challenging for film-makers to portray this complexity, even if they had envisioned a complex character.

    I can think of a couple of really good introvert characters: the highly intelligent/genius Dr. Spencer Reid from “Criminal Minds” (my favorite person in a T.V show). He can be chatty and socialize, but awkward most of the time. Then there is also Dr. House from “House, M.D”. He’s sarcastic, witty, and very introverted!

    Growing up, I’ve been heavily influenced by the silent depth of introverted characters in books. One I can think of is Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

    I loved reading this, thanks for your beautiful writing 🙂

    Like

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