Recently, a friend asked about a book I was reading.
She said: "I've heard that it has parts that are really anti-(insert persuasion/lifestyle/religious affiliation here). Have you reached that part yet?"
I hadn't noticed anything like that in the book yet. But as I continued reading, I came to THE PART that this friend was talking about.
In the book, a main character's friend was trying to make her feel better by insulting a rival-girl. Yes, she used derogatory language to describe this girl. No one in the text set her straight. No one said, "Oh, you shouldn't say that about other people or make a joke of them because they're THIS WAY."
The scene didn't bother me. But I knew it was the part that my friend's friend had been bothered by.
Do we expect all characters in literature to set good examples about how we talk about people of other persuasions/belief systems/lifestyles? Do we at least expect them to be corrected for their behavior if they do make generalizations or derogatory statements? How do characters' belief systems reflect on the author?
I'm being vague here on purpose because I don't want to launch a big angry debate on hot-button topics. The specific issue here isn't the point.
When I read I don't automatically conclude that every character's opinion will reflect the author's. Not all my characters agree with my opinions and belief systems.
But it seems like some readers are quick to think that every character (even if that character is set up as a majorly flawed person) reflects the author's thoughts and beliefs exactly. This worries me, because when I write characters my goal is to include different perspectives. I'm trusting my readers to pick the good from the bad and make up their own minds. Am I expecting too much?
What are your thoughts? Should all our characters think the way we think, and if they don't, should they be corrected?