When a character or narrator through whom the author speaks in a literary work is a persona-the voice of the author. Sometimes, the persona is a person involved in the plot; sometimes, the persona is an outside "voice" with knowledge of the events that occurred.
Persona can also be used to refer to the image that a speaker is attempting to portray. In order to appeal to an audience, the speaker may develop a "public persona" that represents who he/she wants the audience to think he/she is.
A young actor wants everyone to think he is a "bad boy," so he works-through speech and actions-to create a public persona-wearing black clothing, sun glasses at all times, using profanity, dating multiple girls.
A politician wants to appeal to more voters in the South, so he begins to lace his speech with colloquialisms, such as "bless your heart," and "ain't".
Examples of Persona in Literature
Writer Jorge Luis Borges writes about his public persona:
"It is to my other self, to Borges, that things happen. I walk about Buenos Aires and I pause, almost mechanically, to contemplate the arch of an entry or the portal of a church; news of Borges comes to me in the mail, and I see his name on a short list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I am fond of hour glasses, maps, 18th-century typography, the etymology of words, the tang of coffee, and the prose of Stevenson; the other one shares these enthusiasms, but in a rather vain, theatrical way... I cannot tell which one of us is writing this page."
Jonathan Swift (an Irish writer) creates a persona who is an English intellectual as the speaker in "A Modest Proposal":
I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed.... That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and forgune through the kindgon; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends...
Literary Terms Examples