In Western cultural history, the concept of “character”—in both psychological and literary contexts—has always maintained an ideal of consistency. Since Aristotle, the moral conception of a “good character” has been defined by its capacity for stability, predictability, and consistency of habit. Aristotelian ethics is grounded in the notion of character as “one’s power to legislate through self-control or strength of will” (Moses 356), thereby presupposing a fixed self or will inherent to character in the first place. So too, in the wake of personality psychology and psychoanalysis, does our current understanding of character maintain that we have an essential identity or set of “personality” traits that determines who we are and how we will act in any given situation. If we deviate from these established convictions, we are said to have failed to be “true to ourselves,” risking both social censure and misunderstanding (1).

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