Iryna Marchyshyna

Kamianets-Podilskiy Educational Complex №3

Scientific Supervisor: Senior Teacher, Marchyshyna A.M.

Individual and society: the study of G. Bianco’s novel A Girl Named Willow Krimble

The paper focuses on the lingual means of character representation in the novel “A Girl Named Willow Krimble” by G. Bianco. The problem of a disabled personality facing present-day challenges is of top concern. Verbal units of different language levels are interpreted as representative tools revealing “positive” and “negative” traits within the contemporary hierarchy of human values.

Key words:  character, disabled person, lingual means, “negative” traits, “positive” traits.

One of the burning issues constituting the agenda of theoretical discussions today is a disabled person. The analysis of numerous sources, both Ukrainian and foreign, proves that there is a strong tendency to describe a human being in all his/her functional potential by means of language units. This approach has been chosen in our paper as well.

The primary concern of the research is a literary character viewed as a complete, coherent image of a person which comprises his/her existence, thoughts, feelings, senses, behaviours in a single entity [1, p. 4]. The exemplary way of characterization proves to be an action, a specific “key” used to unlock a character’s nature [2, p. 119]. The psychological background of an action lies in the inner world of a character as a human being representation [3, p. 291]. The “decoding” of such motives may serve characters’ identification and help their linguistic interpretation.

The conflict of the analyzed novel is rather typical: two confronting groups of teenagers have constant struggles at school. They are classmates, so they combat at any occasion: at the lessons, in after-school activities. Besides, there are adults who share the views of these. We term the groups as “positive” where the characters disclose the socially approved and morally established traits, and “negative”, whose members reveal the traits which are considered inappropriate in a developed contemporary Christian society. We use quotation marks to identify positive and negative qualities because this distribution is rather relevant. It may depend on the situation and the way of perception.

So, let’s consider the personages and lingual ways of their characterization.

The “positive” characters include willow Krimble, a thirteen-year-old disabled girl, her closest friend Razzel Fiora, her mother Samantha Krimble, brother Wyatt, grandmother Trisha, a few classmates like Taren Swirkle and Brent Deital, to some extent an English teacher Consetta Protts.

Willow heads the hierarchy. She has to wear a prosthetic leg which causes a lot of mocking and bulling from the opposing group of her classmates. She feels humiliated and dreams of getting rid of it: “I’m just a kid who wants to get through her adolescence with minimal humiliation” [4, p. 101].

Willow is a diligent pupil, she’s got a talent for fictional writing which results in good grades. For example, the most demanding teacher praises her: “Miss Willow Krimble will now read her assignment, which earned her the highest grade I have given out in seven years” [4, p. 57].

Willow is fond of reading: That evening, Willow and Razzel choose to watch two films on novels Willow had read [4, p. 80].

As can be seen from the extract, she reads lengthy texts – novels. This is a rather rear hobby nowadays and signals Willow’s intellectual level. Besides, she regularly performs household duties:

After vacuuming the rugs and cleaning the downstairs bathroom, she decided to check the grocery list her mother left for her on the refrigerator. Mrs. Krimble left for work early in the morning and asked Willow to pick up a few things at the local grocery store [4, p. 73-74].

Here, her work is marked by the verbal constructions: the Gerundial vacuuming and cleaning and the Infinitival to check the grocery list and to pick up a few things at the local grocery store.

But what is most important, Willow is endowed with magic abilities. She can heal wounds and wants to apply her gift in helping other people:

She planned on trying to visit her mother at the hospital at least once a week, hoping to help anyone she could while no one else was watching. She knew this would not be easy [4, p. 133]. As the text suggests, she is not afraid of difficulties (this would not be easy) in her desire to help anyone she could.

The whole analyzed text proves that the author avoided depicting a disabled character within “harmful stereotypes” as the one belonging to “marginalized social groups” presenting instead a “strong, fully developed, authentic” [5] individual.

Another “positive” character is Razzel Fiora: Razzel was Willow’s dearest friend since they met in the park when they were both three years old. Razzel was always very protective of Willow [4, p. 2]. Here, the author characterizes Razzel directly, by using a nomination of a character trait – the adjective protective.

Razzel is ready to sacrifice her time, effort and wishes in order to cheer Willow up, she possesses a brilliant sense of humour and is good at languages.

The hierarchy of “negative” characters is headed by Shayla Stergus. She mocks at Willow for her physical drawbacks and even threatens her:

“I’m supposed to feel sorry for her because she was born with one leg? Well, you know what …<…> maybe I’ll just take that fake leg of hers and shove it—” [4, p. 1].

The character’s direct speech explicitly states that she is not tolerant in her nomination of Willow’s disability. She uses offensive expressions like she was born with one leg and fake leg of hers.

As far as Shayla is rather pretty, she is haughty and highbrow. She does not conceal her arrogant attitudes toward some school public events: Shayla walked out onto the stage wearing a huge, phony grin [4, p. 55]. Here, the expression a huge, phony grin indicates her reaction to the school principal’s speech at the assembly.

Shayla’s best friend Snella Burinbine. She is very pragmatic in her choice of friends:

Snella was Shayla’s closest friend, if you could call what they had a friendship. Snella followed Shayla everywhere since the sixth grade. She simply latched onto the girl whom she felt would be the most popular [4, p. 2].

The author indicates that Snella did not have any friendly feelings towards Shayla but just wanted to share her popularity among the schoolmates.

Snella is rude and ill-bred. She widely uses offensive nominations addressing Willow:

“— Stupid handicap!” Snella Burinbine interjected [4, p. 2].

“Listen up, Prosthetic Princess,” barked Snella as her peanut-gallery giggled in support [4, p. 239].

The undertaken analysis proves that both “positive” and “negative” characters are presented by the same language means. Giuseppe Bianco makes use of direct character traits nominations expressed by nouns and adjectives. Verbal constructions indicate the actions and functions the characters perform. Characterization is achieved by three main ways: 1) the personages present themselves in their direct speech; 2) personages characterize each other; 3) the author’s characterization through the narrator’s speech.


  1. Лімборський, Ігор. «Персонаж епічний у творчості Шевченка». Слово і час, № 5, 2010, с. 3-9.
  2. Маранцман, Владимир, и Чирковская, Тамара. Проблемное изучение литературного произведения в школе. М. : Просвещение, 1977.
  3. Основи психології : підручник [за ред. О. В. Киричука, В. А. Роменця]. К. : Либідь, 1996.
  4. Bianco, Giuseppe. A Girl Named Willow Krimble. Kindle Edition, 2011. URL:
  5. Dunn, “Fictional Characters with Disabilities – What Message Do They Send?” National Council of Teachers of English. URL :