Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fictional Characters

If there was no God, it would be necessary to invent one.

For someone who writes fiction, or wants to, inventing characters is necessary, characters that last in the readers’ minds, weeks, months and years after they have read them.

Which true blooded reader can ever forget “Call me Ishmael…” or Raskalnikov? Or how truly embedded are characters like Scarlet O’Hara, Beck and Saleem Senai are in our psyche?

Have you not, if you are over forty, at least, chuckled even once at the pompous Mr Pickwick’s eccentricities?

I had a bunch of school girls come in the other day for a one day workshop in ceramics. Nothing worthwhile can be achieved in a day but the idea was to introduce them to clay and its beauty. So once they had created a couple of pinched and coiled pots I began what my wife calls Shakespearizing.

They are form five girls and I expected them to be well – lets just say – a little read.

“Give each of them pots, girls, a name from a fictional character.” From English books, added.

I certainly did not expect Saleem Senai or Leopold Bloom from them, much less Raskalnikov or Lenny. I expected, with a hopeful heart to hear a Jane Eyre, a Phillip Phirip a David Copperfield. I held my breath as I scanned the faces, would someone surprise me with a Shylock, a Desdemona? I perhaps hoped that some one would turn the tables on me and say: George Wingrave, the funny idiot from Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

I did get reluctant answers: Two fought over who could get the rights to Harry Potter. Others settled on Snow White, Cinderella and Minnie Mouse. My heart perhaps would have found solace if someone had chosen Happy, Dopey, Bashful, Grumpy or any other name of the dwarfs. These were budding youth and all I got was infantile characters from them.

I should have gone for movies perhaps and asked for characters from the celluloid. I would not have hoped for, even there, a Hannibal Lecter, Vito Corleone or even a measly Morpheus. I wonder if I could have elicited a heartwarming answer.

We need to make our kids read more, dammit.

Here is one for those that drop by here from time to time. Tell us about the fictional character that stayed with you for the longest time.

As for me, it was Nora Helmer from A Doll’s House. Though many others have jostled for space from time to time.


Chet said...

Mine was Lily Bart from Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth.

Starmandala said...

The first fictional being that pops unbidden to mind who has exerted the greatest influence on me, I must confess, is Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan/Lord Greystoke. Indeed, I often think I've modeled my own life after the Lord of the Jungle who, amazingly, is also Lord of the Manor! A close second might be Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes - but, much as I enjoy the occasional bit of sleuthing, I found Holmes's misogynist Old Boy ways (hanging out the whole time with his sidekick Watson) rather off-putting. Same goes for Henry Higgins. Seems to me, OD, that our "education system" has done a thoroughly fine job of dumbing down
children born in the late 1970s (that's right, when Dr M was education minister!) But, alas, the same can be said about Britain - I meet some dazzlingly ignorant young people from there!

Shakeel Abedi said...

Indeed, Chet, you brought back Lily Bart to to memory: goodness how long ago is she from?

Antares: Interesting choicees. :)

Those were the unbidden ones, what of those that you bid?

Starmandala said...

After 50 years of serious probing and research I have been forced to the inevitable conclusion that a character I profoundly admired (from the New Testament, no less) and who exerted extraordinary influence on my own character development - is not only fictitious but an intentionally manufactured icon inserted into the collective psyche by pioneers of mass mind control. That's right, folks, I'm referring to the world's most successful fictional character, Yeshu Ben Joseph aka Jesus the Christ :-)

Shakeel Abedi said...

Well, in the manner of a fictional character from Boston Legal, Alan Shore, I say, with as much drawl as possible, with as much profundity in my voice as I can muster:


enar arshad said...

my son's teacher was shocked to know that the whole household didnt follow the series manjalara...and to discover either we surf the internet or read books ,tv is basically for sports.