*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Poldark, both the books and the television series. Read at your own risk.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using Winston Graham’s series of novels, Poldark and the subsequent television series to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
In the previous two posts, I wrote about the title character, Ross Poldark and his wife, Demelza. This post will be focusing on Francis Poldark, Ross’s cousin.
Francis and Ross grew up as brothers. In England at that time, the law of primogeniture ruled. Primogeniture basically means that the first-born son inherits the lion-share of the family assets. Francis is the first-born son of the first born son. He is born into a life of privilege and wealth. But money does not always buy happiness.
At the beginning of the series, we meet Francis when both the audience and Ross learn that he is engaged to Ross’s first love, Elizabeth (to be discussed next week). With Ross home, Francis begins to question if Elizabeth still wants to go on with marriage. Even after they Francis and Elizabeth marry and bring their son into the world, he is still consumed by jealousy and low self-esteem. He becomes good friends with George Warleggan even though he is aware of the bad blood between George and Ross.
By the time we reach book 4 and series 2, Francis has become a new man. His relationship with Ross has mended, his marriage is flourishing, he has broken with George and he has developed a healthy self-esteem.
Then he is killed in mining accident.
Some people are not meant to live to see old age. Some people unfortunately, find themselves and then die before they can truly live. These are the characters that truly break the reader’s heart and remind them of the fragility of life.
To sum it up: Francis is the type of character that unfortunately meets a tragic and unexpected ending. He grapples with so many issues for so long and when he finally decides to be happy and grab life by the balls, he is gone. Francis’s death not only breaks the heart of the characters and the readers, but also forces the fate of those around him into unforeseen territory.
When a writer creates a character like Francis, they are challenging the audience. They are challenging the audience to not only appreciate life, but to also look at the character as a whole, not just his or her problems.