Monday, May 20, 2013

"Oh man! That means Mexican Lassie is corrupt!" "Mexican me?"

 Wherein Jack Begins Picking Characters Apart

 I've been trying to decide who I would start with. I have a long list of characters I love, but I think a good place to start is with some of my all time favourites. So, I will be doing The Pevences for my first post. (I know, I spelled their name wrong. Naughty me.)

 Peter
 Susan
 Edmund
 Lucy

 I'm one of those people who probably read too much into the Narnia books. I like digging into them and seeing what I believe Lewis meant us to see. I had a friend once who picked the entire series apart with me over long, extended emails. She's the one who made me see a lot of what I think is often over looked.

 Now, I believe what makes a story especially good is the characters. Whether they are in-depth characters or ones we have to study to get. (I think Howl might fit into the study category.)

 Anyone who has read the Narnia books knows none of the characters fit the in-depth description. A lot might feel missing. There is not a lot of time wasted on what the characters are like. But instead, we are shown them, and the rest is left to imagination. 

 Starting with Peter. On the surface he's a typical brother. (Another thing I like about Lewis, he understood kids.) He looses his temper, he can be bossy sometimes, and he gets annoyed with his younger siblings. But we also come to see that he never hesitates to fight for those who need him. He cares about his siblings and has a very close bond with Lucy, he looks after her and does his best to protect her. He is honourable - such as when he wouldn't strike Miraz when he was down. 
 He was a wise king whom the Narnians loved, but I think he still made some mistakes as king. (Hints I picked up in The Horse and His Boy. Though maybe it was just me.)
 He was one of the greatest kings to ever rule Narnia, never forgotten. When times were at their worst, he found ways to help. (The Last Battle.) So, even when he came back to this world, he left part of himself in Narnia. It was always his true home, where he belonged.

 Susan. Being the oldest girl, she likely felt responsible for everyone else. Maybe even more so when Peter would loose his temper or do something without thinking it through completely. (Again, something I felt was more implied. She sometimes seemed to act like the older sibling, as if she had to be the voice of reason from time to time.)
 We know that, later, she became more interested in boys and parties and her looks. (Which we can kind of understand because it was often mentioned that she was a pretty girl. Also, she had grown up in Narnia, a lovely queen whom many wished to marry. That would go to any girl's head.)
 Susan was brave, and yet compassionate. Though she got annoyed sometimes, she wanted to help the Narnians as much as Peter. She was the kind of girl who would fight if it meant saving someone else.

 Edmund. The boy who fell into temptation, betrayed his siblings, and became one of the greatest heroes in Narnia.
 I believe it was Edmund's early betrayal which later helped him become the great man he turned into. In the books it is as if we can see he was envious of Peter. Maybe even of Lucy. The baby of the family everyone clearly adored. He would naturally want his moment in the spot light, and when it led to his siblings and all of Narnia falling in danger it changed him. His betrayal cost Aslan his life. Of course, no one ever told Edmund this, but I think he knew. (Again, in between the line reading throughout the series.)
 Later, Edmund fights for Narnia, over and over again. Also, I think his betrayal draws him much closer to Lucy. When Peter and Susan weren't able to return to Narnia it was Edmund who became the oldest sibling. It was he who looked after Lucy and made sure she was always safe. 

 Lucy. The youngest, and the one who I think is the most misunderstood.
 Many seem to think Lucy is too good, perfect, and therefore annoying. Agreed that perfect characters are annoying, but I think Lucy is far from it.
 She does loose her temper, she talks back to Aslan, she has her doubts and fears. But what makes her seem perfect is that she knew Aslan better than the others. She trusted him and was closer to him. And while all the others, aside from Susan, left part of themselves in Narnia, I think Lucy left all of herself. Even when she left at the end of Dawn Treader, I believe she didn't completely leave. She couldn't. Narnia was her home, more than this world. She belonged there. And more than any other creature or human, I believe she was the closet to Aslan.
 I think we all might know some people like this. Some who don't seem to really be a part of this world, even though they've lived here their whole lives. Who already seem to be gone. (Mostly it is people who have spent most of their lives ill. They know they don't belong here and want to go home where they will be well. This is what I believe Lucy was. She stayed in our world because Aslan sent her back, but she was always waiting for the day she could return to Narnia.)

 I know there is a lot of debate over the Narnia books. That they are lacking in character development and Lewis should have put more into them. He and Tolkien got into a disagreement over them, in fact, and I think it hurt part of their friendship.
 But I don't think books or characters all need to be alike. I don't think every book has to have in-depth characters. I like having both, because both ways make us think, if we are willing to try it. The characters which seem flatter - and usually these seem to be in British books, I point out J.K. Rowling for example - take more thought than the others. Books should be different though, with a vast array of characters. Or else reading would get boring very fast.

 What about all of you? Do you have a favourite "flat" character? 

 Don't forget, this is all part of my book release party. I will be giving away a free copy of my newest book, A Stretch of Loyalty. If you wish to enter, you can write a character post on your own blog and leave the link on mine. I will put your name in a hat and hold the drawing on the 14th of June.

 Quote is from Psych, because I like using any and all Mexican Lassie quotes I could find.

 Allons-y!

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13 comments :

  1. I don't think CS Lewis' characters (or JK Rowling's actually) are flat at all! To me, it's like a different style. Both Lewis and Rowling left so much room for the reader to create more of the world in their own head. Which I love. I loved how Lewis didn't even describe the Pevensie children until the end. It was like...we, as the readers, got to do it! XD

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  2. You use all the Mexican Lassie quotes you like!
    They were complex characters, just made simpler because the books were aimed at kids.
    I liked Edmund, probably because I'm the youngest boy and can relate.

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  3. Hey,

    I loved this post. Very good. You know, I always loved Edmund - and Eustace, actually. My favorite scene in the entire series they never added to the movies, and that makes me extremely sad. :( It's the one where I think Lewis really showed the characters of the two and made them incredibly personal {to me at least}. It was the bit where Eustace is feeling lousy after he's realized what a dollop-head he was and Edmund comes up to him and says it's okay, and at least he didn't betray his friends. Love that bit - I only wish they had added it. Ah, well.

    Anyway, you know, I will gladly agree with the fact that the characters did have some depth -- I just wish Lewis had put a little more of that open - so you didn't have to spend hours contemplating what they were like. I guess, what I don't like about it really is that, as everyone else admits, since he was writing for children he made is less complex. I mean, my mom read to Molly and I books by Howard Pyle {really complex to most 7 year olds, which I was at the time}, my dad read The Hobbit to me when I was about 5. I understood and loved them both. And when I got around to reading books by myself, I also read what society would call "complex" -- such as Robinson Crusoe...which, by the way is not complex at all. What I'm saying is - Lewis didn't have to make it less complex for his younger readers. That is something many writers do, and personally, drives me up the wall.

    I totally agree with you that some books are really good that are meant to make you think. I mean, one of my top five favorite books is "Pilgrim's Progress". That one makes you think. At least, it should.

    In short - I agree, the characters did have quite a bit of character. What I don't like is that you have to think long and hard about their characters, to get that. As I had said before - he wrote down to his readers. I'm not really talking about actual word-orders and the makings of a sentence being "easier", I'm talking about how he took these plots and the depths of the stories, and made them less complex for his readers, so much so that you have to really, really think long and hard about it to grasp what he could have said openly.

    Perhaps it's simply a matter of what individual people like. I love good, deep characters - and I don't care about the plot really. If that aspect {the characters} are not defined enough, or you have to dig deep down in the writing to find it, I just don't like it. At all. But, if you *can* in fact see past that aspect and are fine with digging deep down into it to find the characters - then Jack, you really do have my respect.

    S.I.C.,
    Anna ;)
    P.S. Love this post - am looking forward to more character studies!

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  4. YOWZEE! I just looked up at my published comment and was shocked at how long it was! Heehee!
    Anna

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  6. I have never read any of the Narnia books and, sadly, all my knowledge of them comes from the movies.

    I really need to rectify that soon :)

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  7. I have loved the Narnia books ever since I first read them (which was shortly after finishing The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which I may have enjoyed just slightly more at eight), and I've never really considered the characters flat at all...I mean, I can definitely spot a flat character a mile off in the books and stories I read (and write!) today, but Lewis' have never struck me as particularly flat, mostly because they have their obvious faults, and I think it's faults that make characters seem just that much more human. It has been a very long time since I last read the books, however...I may have to revisit them one of these days.

    ~Vicki
    Decked Out in Ruffles

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  8. JACK! This post was so awesome, dear. lol. I mean... I love the Narnia books. Edmund was always my favorite... I don't know of any hugely flat characters, though. Like you, I tend to fill in the blanks myself. hehehe.

    I wish I could enter your book release party... But I want to finish school, so I'm trying to buckle down and work hard. I don't' think I'll have time to do any deep posts for a while. *Sigh* Grrrr.

    On a happier note, MEXICAN LASSIE!!!!!!!!!!! lol! I LOVED that episode. It was so funny. Giggly giggly giggly. Have you seen any after that. There's a bunch on USAnetwork... for freeeeee. And since USA network put it up themselves I don't feel bad watching them on there. Have you seen Deez Nups? GAAAAAAAAAH. I was so sad. Cough. Ahem.

    Anyhoo, I should go now. hehe.

    Cheers and good luck with your party.

    Treskie

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  9. Excellent post. I love your insights here. I completely agree with you about Lucy, I never found her annoying, or "perfect," for that matter... but she definitely personifies that "childlike faith" quality I would love to emulate. I think it's more difficult for the average person to related to Lucy.

    I never thought of these characters as "flat" though... Lewis just left way more up to the reader's imaginations than Tolkien did.

    I also don't buy that he was "dumbing it down" for children. The stories started out for him as a fun excursion into writing an entertaining story for his god-daughter. He enjoyed writing the story so much that he went on to write the sequels. His friends (Tolkien included) believed writing children's fiction would hurt his reputation as a serious author, also, Tolkien was not a fan of the mixture of mythology, allegory, and folklore (Father Christmas AND a witch AND a Christ-figure AND fauns/dwarves/dryads!!!!) he though it would never work and was afraid his friend would become a laughingstock.

    Basically, I think Lewis was just like any other author. He wanted to write something he (or the person he was writing it for: his goddaughter) would enjoy READING. His personal beliefs permeated his writing, probably more than he ever intended. I think he meant the Chronicles of Narnia to be a lark, not a deep allegory... the fact that they ARE deeper than they seem at first glance is because the man was brilliant, and couldn't hide it, even when writing for children.

    But then, I'm sort of a Tolkien/Lewis fanatic... so I may be biased. LOL

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  10. I haven't read all of the Narnia books, and goodness, it's been a long time since I last picked one up, but I could certainly agree that while flat characters are boring, sometimes a flat character is just what a story needs. Or they just fit the space better. They don't need to change, they just need to roll with it so we can see what happens to people who are like such-and-such.
    I can't think of my favorite flat character at the moment, so I'll have to get back to you. Possibly via a post for this book party. Speaking of, where should we submit posts to?

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  11. I was going to post on them! Oh, well, I guess I'll do HaHB's cast then ... which is my favorite book.

    The meaning of their names can add layer to their characters, too. Peter means stone, Susan means graceful, Edmund means protector, and Lucy means light. I read a excellent article or something about it somewhere ... they also talked about some of the other characters, too.

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    1. Oh, and the character you asked about, I'm leaning towards him being good, but writing being writing ... you never know. He certainly isn't in on a certain other character's schemes.

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  12. Here's my link! I hope I'm doing it right! I just leave the link here, and I go into the draw?

    http://notebooksisters.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/however-improbable-character-posts.html

    Thanks for hosting a giveaway! This is fun! :)

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