Time to discuss the elephant in the room?

Have you ever wondered about the unique literary presence of our four-legged friends and creatures of the wild?

Animals in novels have long been a staple, serving various roles, from companions to symbols of societal traits.

This post will take you on a literary safari through the rich history and evolving role of animals in the written storyscapes of our world.

The Role of Animals in Novel Writing

Historical Perspective

The use of animals in literature isn’t just a recent thing. From Aesop’s Fables to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, animals have played all sorts of roles.

They’re like characters in our stories, sometimes good guys, sometimes bad guys, and everything in between.

Over time, they’ve become symbols and legends that have changed with the times.

Back in the day, animals were used to teach moral lessons in fables, passing on wisdom through the years. In the Middle Ages, they symbolised different virtues, vices, and societal roles.

As literature got more real, animals became deeper characters, showing writers’ concern for animal welfare and the environment.

A Modern Dilemma

An issue for modern writers is the balance between making the animals appealing to readers and the need to avoid imputing human characteristics unscientifically (being anthropomorphic). Feel free to let me know how well you think I have handled the creatures in my books.

Symbolism and Representation

Animals in novels often symbolise aspects of human experience. For example, in Moby Dick, the whale symbolises nature’s indifference, while in Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, dogs embody primitive instincts, carrying layers of meaning.

They can also reflect societal conditions, like in Richard Adams’ Watership Down, where rabbits represent the struggles of displaced communities and the resilience needed to survive.

Animal characters serve as allegorical devices, addressing themes such as power, freedom, and survival that go beyond species boundaries.

Impact on Storytelling

Animal characters can add depth to a story. They introduce new dimensions to the narrative, providing fresh perspectives that the human characters might not articulate.

Take Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, where the presence of a Bengal tiger on a lifeboat catalyses a profound philosophical exploration that would have eluded the story with a human cast alone.

In some cases, the animal’s perspective allows the audience to explore controversial or challenging themes in a less confrontational manner.

Animal characters can create bridges between readers and the story’s themes, making complex issues more accessible and palatable.

Audience Engagement

Readers often form deep connections with animal characters, sometimes more so than with their human counterparts.

The loyal nature of dogs, the grace of horses, or the cunning of foxes tap into universal human experiences, fostering a kind of emotional shorthand that draws readers into the story.

In crafting animal characters, writers have the opportunity to capture the nuances of the non-human experience, building a world that is simultaneously familiar and alien.

These creations can guide us through a gamut of emotions, from the joyous freedom of discovery in Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner through the albatross to the heart-wrenching sorrow of loss in Marley & Me.

The portrayal of animal characters allows readers to delve into a rich tapestry of emotions, connecting deeply with the essence of nature and the vivid landscapes painted by the authors.

The bond formed with these creatures transcends the pages, resonating long after the final chapter, leaving an indelible mark on the reader’s heart and mind.

Contact Us

For more information on how animals are used in novel writing, contact John Harvey Murray today by calling 01925 445215 or emailing john@johnharveymurray.co.uk.