The Effects of Urbanization on Character Development in Literature


Urbanization refers to the process of increasing urban areas and population due to the migration of people from rural to urban areas. This phenomenon has greatly impacted various aspects of human society, including literature. In recent years, urbanization has become a prevalent theme in literature, with many authors exploring its effects on character development. This essay aims to examine the effects of urbanization on character development in literature, with a focus on how it shapes individuals and their relationship with society.

One of the most significant impacts of urbanization on character development in literature is the portrayal of a fast-paced and competitive society. As cities become more crowded and developed, they offer people opportunities for economic, social, and cultural growth. However, at the same time, individuals are exposed to intense competition, which often leads to a sense of alienation and detachment. This is evident in J.D. Salinger’s novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” where the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, struggles to find his place in a bustling and competitive New York City. The pressure to conform to societal expectations leads to a sense of disconnection and a lack of individuality, ultimately impacting Holden’s character development.

Furthermore, urbanization also exposes individuals to a diverse range of experiences and cultures. This leads to a clash of values and beliefs, which can be challenging for characters to navigate. As seen in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah,” the main character, Ifemelu, moves from her rural hometown in Nigeria to urban cities in the United States and the United Kingdom. She is forced to adapt to a new way of life and unlearn the societal norms she grew up with. This cultural shock leads to a transformation in her character, from a na├»ve young woman to a strong and independent individual.

Moreover, urbanization often brings about a breakdown in traditional family structures, leading to complex relationships and emotional struggles. In “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf, the characters are living in a rapidly modernizing London, where traditional values and social structures are challenged. The protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway, is portrayed as a lonely and isolated character, an effect of urbanization on her family and social interactions. As individuals are forced to adapt to new lifestyles, it impacts their relationships and ultimately shapes their character development.

Another effect of urbanization on character development can be seen in the portrayal of poverty and inequality in literature. As cities become more developed, there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor, creating a sense of alienation and injustice among characters. This is depicted in Sonia Nazario’s “Enrique’s Journey,” where the protagonist, Enrique, leaves his impoverished hometown in Honduras to search for his mother in the United States. His journey exposes him to the harsh realities of poverty and inequality, leading to a transformation in his character and worldview.

In addition to the impact on individual characters, urbanization also shapes the relationship between characters and their environment. As cities grow and consume natural landscapes, there is a disconnection from nature, leading to a sense of loss and longing among characters. This is evident in Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel, “The Road,” where the desolate urban landscape reflects the grim and bleak state of the characters’ lives. The absence of nature in their surroundings impacts their emotional and psychological well-being, ultimately shaping their character development.

In conclusion, urbanization has had a significant impact on character development in literature. As cities continue to grow, the effects on individuals and their relationship with society are evident in literature. From the fast-paced and competitive urban lifestyle to the breakdown of traditional values and family structures, these effects have been explored by authors in various forms. Thus, it can be argued that urbanization has become a crucial theme in literature, showcasing its influence on the development of characters and society as a whole.