*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have seen any of the adaptations.
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 the characters from Little Women to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
There is something to be said about birth order and personality. In Little Women, Meg March is the oldest of four March girls. The March family is today what we would call middle class. They are not super wealthy, but they are not poor either. The book starts as The Civil War rages on, the girl’s father is fighting for the North. To supplant the family income, Meg works as a governess for a local family. Like many first-born children, Meg often acts as a secondary parent to her younger sisters.
But that does not mean that Meg is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. She is still growing up, trying to figure out who she is and how she wants to live her life. Along the way, she lets her wealthy friends turn her into their personal makeover project and eventually marries John Brooke (who shall be discussed at a later date), who according to Aunt March (who will also be discussed at a later date) is not an appropriate match.
To sum it up: Archetypes are one facet of character development. But the archetype is only the skeleton of the character. It is up to the writer to flesh out the character and make them feel alive. Meg March feels alive because despite being the archetypal responsible and level-headed first-born, she still has her imperfections and her faults. That is why audiences and readers still keep going back to Meg and the rest of the characters in Little Women more than a century after the original publication date.
It’s no secret that the Trump Presidency has been a hot mess since day 1. When General John Kelly became Chief of Staff earlier this year, there seemed to be a promise of being the “adult in the room”.
That promise, if it ever truly existed, has not exactly come to pass. Kelly has just become another Trump crony repeating the “alternative facts” that has become a hallmark of the current administration.
The latest “alternative fact” coming from Washington D.C. is that The Civil War could have been prevented if the North and the South had simply compromised. I’m not an expert on that period, but I know enough to know that compromising was not an option. I could go further, but I will let Samantha Bee take over from here.
“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
The phrase above has in recent decades been used when referring to the Holocaust. But while it refers to a specific event in history, the phrase itself has the potential to be used for other events in history.
In the wake of the rally in Charlottesville last weekend, local governments and citizens alike have either called for the removal and/or destruction of monuments from the Confederate South or have had them removed completely.
It feels to me like a double-edged sword. We cannot white wash history and pretend that the horrors of slavery did not happen in America, but at the same time, if we do decide to remove them from the public arena, what are we teaching our children?
If American society has a cross to bear, it is the enslavement of African-Americans and the scar that still exists from that enslavement in our society generations after The Civil War. Racism still exists in America (as was dreadfully highlighted last weekend) and remains a blight on the ideals laid out by our Founding Fathers.
The only compromise I can think of is to not whitewash history and use the past (and the monuments dedicated those who were part of the Confederate South) as a teaching tool. We can only learn from history (and prevent it from happening again) is to learn from the mistakes of the generations who have come before us.
That being said, I would like to know the opinion of my readers. Should we remove the statues and be done with it or use it as teaching tool for this generation and future generations?
It is both sad and scary that there are people in this country who still think like this, who would condemn another person because of race, family origin, religion, etc. I feel like I watching historical footage of a Nazi rally in 1930’s Germany or reading an oral narrative from the South just after the Civil War. It is surreal that this is happening in America today.
When we speak of the Holocaust, we say never again. It saddens me that in America in 2017, we must use never again to remind us of what happens when hate and prejudice take over.
History can be an interesting subject for a fictional television drama. But for it to be done right, the characters must appeal to a modern audience and the narrative has to be more than dry facts coming out of a boring college history textbook.
Between 2012 and 2013, the BBC original drama Copper aired on Sunday nights. Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom-Weston Jones) is an Irish immigrants who walks the streets of The Five Points in New York City during The Civil War. While working the beat of the dangerous Five Points, Detective Corcoran, known as Corky, does not limit himself to his neighborhood. His travels around the city include trips to the uptown residences of wealthy playboy Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid), society wife Elizabeth Haverford (Anastasia Griffith) and to the home of African-American Doctor Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh).
I was a fan of this show. I enjoyed the subtle history lesson with the compelling narrative and 3D characters. The problem is that BBC America did not feel the same and cancelled the show after the 2nd season.
Pride and Prejudice is a beloved and well read classic for a reason. Since it arrived in bookstores and libraries in 1813, many writers have tried to replicate the magic that gives Pride and Prejudice it’s standing. While many have tried, only a few have hit the mark.
In 2014, writer Mary Jane Hathaway threw her hat in the Austen-reboot sub-genre. One of the results is Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits, a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice set in the modern-day American South. Shelby Roswell is a history professor teaching at a small Southern college, her expertise is The Civil War. Recently publishing a book on the subject, she hopes that this book will lead to being tenured. That tenure is quickly derailed by Ransom Fielding, a historian whose review of Shelby’s book is far from complementary. Adding insult to injury, Ransom has agreed to take on the role of a visiting professor at the same college. After loosing his wife 6 years ago, he has buried his head in the sand when it comes to life and love. Then he meets Shelby and the sparks begin to fly.
Anyone who knows me or follows this blog knows that Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books. Jane Austen was a master in the art of writing. Some writers are fortunate enough to be able to reproduce her works successfully. While I enjoyed Ms. Hathaway’s modern take on Persuasion, I can’t say the same about her take on Pride and Prejudice. For a reader or an audience to be invested in a romance, they have to see the potential in the coupling of the lead characters, even if at some point in the narrative, the lead characters are not sure themselves. While the romance between Shelby and Ransom was on the page, as a reader I did not feel it.
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw is remembered as being a hero for the North in The Civil War. He is also remembered for leading the first all black regiment.
In 1989, his story was brought to big screen in the movie Glory. Pvt Trip, one of the soldiers under his command, was played by Denzel Washington. The men in the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry not fought on the battlefield for freedom, they also fought against the racism and prejudice from their fellow citizens.
What makes this movie stand out from the plethora of Civil War era movies is how timely it still feels. Prejudice and racism still exist in this country. Colonel Shaw and his men fought and died for the same freedoms that we are still fighting and dying for today. This movie and the true story that inspired it remind the audience that there are people like Colonel Shaw in the world, willing to step up and do what is right, even if that means going against convention.
War has been a man’s game since the beginning of time. The men went to war and the women stayed home.
The Civil War began to slowly change that idea.
Erin Lindsay McCabe’s new novel, I Shall Be Near To You, is the story of a woman who donned men’s clothes, changed her identity and fought in the Civil War.
Rosetta and Jeremiah are newlyweds at the outbreak of the Civil War. Jeremiah joins his brothers and the other young men of the community to fight. Not satisfied to stay home and wait for her husband to return, Rosetta dresses in her husband’s clothes, takes the names of Ross Stone and joins his regiment. Jeremiah is quick to figure out that the new recruit is his wife. Their marriage is tested by the war itself, as well as the constant danger of her true identity being revealed.
I enjoyed this book. Rosetta is not the meek and mild woman to wait at home patiently while her husband fights for the North. She spurns many of the conventions of being a woman in that period, even before she joins the army. Jeremiah, equally as strong willed, is incredulous that his wife is dressed in his clothes and is now acting as a man. But he still treats her like any of the men in his regiment.
The details in this books make it that more real. There were women who did forgo the female conventions to fight in the Civil war. Rosetta’s story is fiction, but these women’s heroism is real.