Dans sa chronique du Huffington Post, Evan Gottlieb discute du besoin ressenti par les lecteurs de pouvoir s’identifier au héros romanesque. Il rappelle avec justesse qu’il s’agit d’une possibilité du roman moderne :
our seemingly spontaneous desire to identify with fictional protagonists is actually a relatively new phenomenon. Prior to the 18th century, most authors in the Western tradition didn’t worry too much about whether their characters’ motivations seemed realistic to readers; their conceptions of character were largely static or symbolic, and their protagonists were exemplary or humorous as a result. The very idea of a « round » character, with a recognizably « deep » psychology, was primarily an early-19th century invention.
Après avoir envisagé la transition ménagée par les romans de Defoe et de Shelley, il revient à la relation que l’on établit avec le personnage et, par là, convoque l’idée de vraisemblance, de façon à montrer qu’il s’agit de la condition minimale — et nécessaire — pour l’adhésion :
And so we return to the question of whether fictional protagonists need to be relatable in order for readers to enjoy ourselves. If relatable merely means likable, then I think the answer is no: many classic fictional heroes and heroines, including Catherine Earnshaw in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Rodion Raskolnikov in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, are not particularly likable. But if we expand our definition of « relatable » to mean psychologically plausible, then I think the answer is yes. We may not always like, or even approve of, fictional protagonists like selfish Catherine and obsessive Raskolnikov. But I think we have much to gain from learning to recognize reflections of ourselves in them, even — or perhaps especially — when we want to deny any resemblances. There are, of course, many other good reasons to read literature: for entertainment, for instruction, for inspiration. But from the 18th century onward, novels have shown themselves to be remarkably effective, durable technologies for encouraging us to extend our understanding to others, no matter how different or unlikable they might initially appear.