6 Examples of Bias in Literature

A bias in literature refers to when an author presents information or perspectives in a non-objective manner. This can happen consciously or unconsciously. It can manifest diversely, influencing how a story unfolds or a message is delivered. Examples include political bias, where the writer’s political stance affects the portrayal of characters or events, and cultural bias, where the author’s cultural upbringing influences how they present various societies or customs.

Types of Bias

Here are some common types of bias: –

Political Bias: When an author’s own political views or affiliations influence how they portray political issues, parties, or ideologies in their work. They may deliberately or unintentionally frame one perspective in a more positive/negative light based on their own stance.

Ideological Bias: Similar to political bias but based more broadly on the author’s underlying beliefs and values systems. Certain ideas may be privileged over others due to the author’s ideological leanings.

Cultural Bias: Preconceptions or prejudices about cultures other than one’s own can result in imbalanced or stereotypical representations of cultural groups in terms of their traditions, behaviors, values, etc. This includes biases against certain religions, ethnicities, or nationalities.

Gender Bias: When female and male characters are not portrayed equitably or certain gender stereotypes are perpetuated due to the author’s inherent biases about gender roles and identities.

Generational Bias: The tendency to portray one’s own generation (or those of other eras) in a more favorable or understanding light compared to younger/older generations.

Confirmation Bias: As mentioned, only including or weighing information that agrees with one’s existing views, while ignoring or dismissing facts that contradict preconceptions. This makes the narrative biased.

Selection Bias: The non-random choice of certain details or perspectives to feature prominently while relatively excluding others results in a skewed portrayal of people, events or issues.

Examples of Bias in literature

Example#1

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent. And he let me see tapering white light housed in the promises of interactive institutions, and the gratified smile of women who had never been intrigued by anything sordid on earth.” (Chapter 1)

In the passage, Fitzgerald employs a bias towards the narrator namely Nick Carraway. He portrays him in a positive light. Using phrases such as ‘just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent’ and ‘gratified smile of women who had never been intrigued by anything sordid on earth’, the write creates a sense of empathy and understanding towards the Nick’s perspective. This bias reinforces the themes of identity and societal expectations in the novel.

Example#2

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“Tom Robinson’s accident was a direct result of Mr. Dolphus Raymond’s attempt to improve his community, a community which had never rejected him. People used to say that he… was half-breed and didn’t know his place.” (Chapter 10)

Lee employs a bias towards the marginalized and oppressed characters i.e. ‘Tom Robinson’ and ‘Mr. Dolphus Raymond’. He portrays them in a sympathetic way. The use of phrases, such as ‘direct result’ and ‘never rejected’, the author creates a sense of affinity with these characters. The bias supports the themes of racial injustice and discrimination in the novel.

Example#3

“The Handmaid’s Tal” by Margaret Atwood

“Of course the police are entitled to know that Offred is an illegal trans-sexual of the male sex, and that she has been so for many years.” (Chapter 2)

In the above context, the writer employs a bias towards the oppressed and marginalized characters i.e. ‘Offred’. He signifies them in a commiserative manner. While using the phrases, ‘illegal trans-sexual’ and ‘male sex’, Atwood creates a sense of pity towards the identity of Offred. Here, the bias hold up the themes of oppression and resistance in the novel.

Example#4

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“Pride is a capable thing inogs. Proud men are rarely tedious… But to be proud of quick laughter, and thing of no consequence! to be proud of revels! to be proud of a jockey-coat! Oh! how infinitely prettier is the quiet tone of the really accomplishedSION woman!” (Chapter 34)

Here the bias has been employed towards the protagonist i.e. Elizabeth Bennet. The authors denotes her in a favorable light. The use of phrases like ‘capable thing’ and ‘really accomplished, she creates a sense of sympathy and understanding towards the character of Elizabeth. In the novel, the bias reinforces the themes of identity and societal expectations.

Example#5

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain

“…the widow she cried over me, and called me her poor, poor Huck, and I ain’t minded it a mite, because it was kind of suited to my feelings. My! how that billionares party laughed and talked when they found out I warn’t actually dead! and how they did want to be so perlite to me, ‘__ _’ my!” (Chapter 25)

Twain employs the bias towards the Huck Finn, the protagonist sympathetically. The use of bias phrases, such as ‘poor Huck’ and ‘kind of suited to my feelings’ creates a sense of affinity towards the character of Huck. The themes of identity and morality have been biased in the novel.

Example #6

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

“He was the center of his own story, and he loved it. He loved the rise and fall of his voice, the way he could make a room full of people lean in and listen. He was a man who had lived a thousand lives, and he had worn each one evenly, like a coat.” (Chapter 1)

Hosseini has utilized a bias towards’ Amir’ while portraying him in a confident and self assured light. The use of phrases, such as, ‘center of his own story’ and ‘rose and fall of his voice’ develops a sense of consolation towards the character of said Amir. Here, the bias fortify the themes of identity and redemption in the literary work.

Function of Bias

A function of bias is that it can add depth and complexity, reflecting the messy realities of different viewpoints. Bias can help to create nuanced and multidimensional characters, allowing readers to see various perspectives and experiences. The author incorporates biases into a narrative to highlight the subjective nature of reality and the ways in which different individuals can interpret the same event or situation. This can lead to a more realistic and immersive reading experience. This is so, as readers are forced to consider multiple angles and perspectives.

However, it is important to recognize that bias also risk to prompt harmful stereotypes if presented in an unfair or imbalanced manner. A biased portrayal perpetuate prejudices and reinforce existing power structures perpetuating inequality and discrimination. For example, when a story leans on stereotypes or supports harmful norms, it creates a bad reading atmosphere. That’s why the writers should recognize their biases and think carefully about how they write.

Examples of Bias in Literature
Examples of Bias in Literature

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