“But you’re not really ascribing interiority to a shirt or a bottle of vinegar—these are interactional gambits” —say, in the case of the shirt, a compliment that skirts the potential awkwardness of a more direct approach. Often characterization does serve a deflective role—it introduces a buffer between the “animator” of an assertion, request, etc and its recipients. In Nozawa’s survey, characters play an advisory role, raising the salience and softening the imperative force of notices, warnings, and injunctions—announcing disruptions to public transit, exhorting viewers to conserve energy (a lightbulb with closed eyelids).
My own view is that while often characterization represents an interactional gambit, this is not all it does. Characters are not simply puppets. Within the circle of conversation, just for a moment, they have a perspective, they look out on the world. They are present.
In characterizing things, in representing them as present to themselves, we make them more present, perceptually and conceptually, to ourselves and our interlocutors.
Consider the salience of verbs of contact in the foregoing. I want to say: to make something present is to enter into a kind of tactile relationship with it—just as, in the experience of gravity, range of motion, the contractile activity of the heart and gut, and the distensive pressure of ingesta on the gut wall, you enter into a tactile relationship with your body.
To represent something as present to itself is to make it familiar. It is to invite that thing into the compass of the body. In this way we soften the boundary between self and world. We make the world, with its shirts that snag and bottles that break (or enter the food chain as microplastics, at length getting incorporated into our bodies) a bit less alien.