For those who grow up reading, fictional characters become an undeniably impactful force in their growth. Our favorite protagonists tend to be characters with qualities we aspire to emulate. However, rarely do we reflect on why the heroes we read about become affect us so deeply that they can influence the way we think and act.

Protagonists of books, and even films, are written to be idols of some sort. Whether in mannerism, belief, or action, the heroes of storiesreach a certain standard in the mind of the reader that makes them aspirational beings. We see this when we compare the generation that grew up watching movies based on traditional fairytales and the generation that watched female leads fight for their own independence. While the difference may be subtle, the way in which these two generations behave and interact with one another can be placed alongside the behavior exhibited by the protagonists in the stories they grew up reading and watching.

What is it about these characters that makes them figures we idolize? What is it in these personas that we find so relatable? Unlike us, they do not have lives they can control. Every character’sfate is predetermined, so what could it be that makes us immediately adopt the reality provided to us by their authors?

According to BBC News Magazine, it is the fact that these charactersbelieve and act as though they live free lives and in conjunction, we read their stories as they live them. But it must be something more. Why do we become so caught up in seeing stories through the subject’s eyes, especially as we grow up? The fictional figures we are exposed to have the ability to connect with us in such a way that they may influence the processes in which our behaviors develop and mature.

Perhaps it has to do with humans’ tendency to socialize and look for connection. Our initial reaction to news is to attempt to empathize with it, despite its one-sidedness, because we are social creatures. Perhaps this ability to believe that these characters we encounter are real and have control over their own lives is solely because we, as readers, do not and cannot foresee the way the story ends unless we skip to that end or are told. In this way, the experiences we witness with these charactersare much like those we encounter in our lives, because we do not know what will happen next.

If this is true, then the influence of fictional figures could be based on the seeming uncertainty of their predicament. We do not quite know what may come next in our own lives and in that way, we relate to the way events are processed by our idolized protagonists.

The creation of such personalities seems to have the ability to tap into an instinctual human behavior that causes them to become altering forces in our lives to varying degrees. We can connect with those we read about not only because we feel as though they behave much like ourselves, but because we cannot help but relate to their seeming uncertainty as we follow them through their adventures. They become part of our lives in a unique way that has the immense potential to change us forever. For this reason, it is imperative we take the time to reflect on who we may identify with and why—it promises to be telling of something more significant than we may initially deem.


  • Nishita Naga

    Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large from Fordham University at Lincoln Center

    Nishita Naga is a sophomore at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. On campus, she is a writer and editor for a magazine created by Fordham students, FLASH Magazine. Off-campus, she writes as a contributor for Thrive Global, and grasps any opportunity she can to bring about change to improve the atmosphere of modern society. She believes strongly in the power that media and its future has to influence social change and intends to magnify that power as a Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large.