Any publication about introverts or introversion usually catches my eye and my interest. While perusing The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling, I began to wonder about introverted fictional characters. Books and films abound with them and, it is no wonder, many authors and artists are introverted.
What qualities (positive) characterize introverts and introversion? While the forefathers of psychology and pop psychology tend to couch their descriptions in pejorative terms, it has been reassessed that at least 50% of all humans are introverted. And, luckily for us, the great Carl Gustav Jung also thought highly of introverts. Much of his work was devoted to the inner worlds of imagination and intuition–skills that delight many introverts. 50% of the population is indeed a high percentage in a Darwinian equation in which only the most fit survive. There must be something highly important about the introvert personality with regards to human adaptation to have such a strong presence within the general population. While American culture glorifies the active, risk-taking, impulsive, highly social and (from an introvert’s perspective) short-fused, superficial, and attention-deficit oriented individual, a sense of balance seems to require a very different personality type to keep the group going.
Introverts are slower, more thoughtful and careful planners, more detail-oriented, and less socially inclined. Introvert brains process information differently, using more areas of the brain to assess information. High sensitivity (see Elaine Aron’s site about HSPs–Highly Sensitive Persons) also often is a characteristic of introversion. Introverts often need to be alone, to reflect, to digest observations. In ancient times, the wealthy and powerful surrounded themselves with sages and advisers. The introvert is just the woman or man for that job. While not seeking out the limelight, the introvert tends to seek truth, knowledge, or justice. The bottom line is that all personality types are valuable and necessary for our collective survival and wellbeing as humans.
Perhaps taking a closer look at fictional characters contributes to our ability to perceive the value of “the other half.”
While searching online, I found a fun and interesting tumblr site MBTI-in-Fiction in which numerous fictional characters are analyzed along the lines of the Myers-Briggs personality profile system. Just for fun, take the free online 16 Personalities quiz (not an official Myers-Briggs test), and compare your personality type with those of your favorite fictional characters.
In the Myers-Briggs personality evaluation system, the various letters stand for key personality traits. I represents introvert, while E stands for extrovert, N for intuitive, T for thinking, J for judging, F for feeling, P for perceiving, S for sensing, etc. Various traits have different levels of dominance in each personality type, which is a combination of four traits, inspired by the Jungian theory of individuation.
Some of my favorite introverted film characters include warm-hearted dreamer Amelie Poulain, from the 2001 French film Amelie, “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain,” directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Tim Burton’s Edward, of Edward Scissorhands (1990). The contrast in personalities and creativity of the various characters in both films highlight the challenges of these two very lovable characters.
Whether your own temperament is characterized by a dominant introvert or extrovert, I think we can all learn to better know and appreciate ourselves and one another by enjoying works of literature or film, helping to make our human community more balanced and our inner lives richer.