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Characters in a literary work achieve the following:
- Characters are the necessary catalysts that drive a story to it's ultimate potential.
- Without characters, there would be no sense of identification or means of escape from reality for the audience.
- Characters provide a significant dose of social reinforcement without having to tangibly interact with other people, a social structure that is not always highly motivating.
These elements are particularly true of fictional works. Character development lends for the impossible to become possible. Audiences have a desire for stories to be carried out a certain way, and characters allow the audience to immerse themselves within their desired storyline. Blakey Vermeule states that fiction "imposes two stiff tariffs at the outsetFirstto suspend our disbelief. Secondto give it the valuable gift of our attentionfiction pays us back with large doses of really juicy social information". Thusly, a character in literature is a vessel for imaginative socialization.
Characters and their actions can also reinforce or challenge belief systems already held by the reader. As Jens Eder describes, "readers show great facility in drawing inferences that relate characters to categories" and that they "might be tempted to create a theory about the importance of these inferences or the particular function they provide". Characters allow for such impositions without retaliation.