"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." -Martin Luther

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Protagonists Have No Parents

This is a subject with lots of potential (mwahaha). Dad pointed it out to me, which is ironic. You see, the great majority of protagonists (hero/heroine of the story) in children's literature especially, have no parents, or just one parent, or manage to get their parents out of the picture early on.
Let's start with recent hits in moviedom, primarily those drawing from books. Though I have not read or seen the story, I am under the impression that Harry Potter certainly has no contact with his parents, or has no parents at all. Frodo's parents are dead at the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring, despite the fact that he is still considered an adolescent. Anakin Skywalker never had a father, and his mother, while playing a part in the story, is not a parental influence after the Phantom Menace. Luke Skywalker never knew his mother, and is functionally without a father. And let's not forget the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or any of Lewis' Chronicles. The examples of children without present parents make that of Digory's mother (weakened to the point of ineffectiveness) a contrast. Cheaper by the Dozen has parents, but at least in the fictionalized movies the relationship is primarily antagonistic. And then there were a Series of Unfortunate Events...
Other children's books: Treasure Island spends its first few chapters getting away from the mother. The evil stepmother is not very motherly. Otto, of Otto of the Silver Hand, never knew his mother, and his father sends him away. The Accidental Detectives series is a marked exception, with two Christian parents at times figuring prominently in the stories. Most of the books, however, separate the characters from their parents. Frank Perretti's Cooper Kids series prominently features the strong, meek father, but the mother is dead. Little Men is about a boys' school -- no parents are present. The girl in Swan House has only one parent. There's Heidi, Naruto, the orphans in At the Back of the North Wind, the Boxcar Kids, Pollyanna, Rose in Eight Cousins, Sarah and Nellie in Little Princess, Oliver Twist, that girl in the Secret Garden, and Cosette in Les Miserables.
Now, it is reasonable and realistic for some children in stories to be orphans, as it is for some children in stories to be away from their parents. But it seems that a vast majority of children's stories include either no parents or little interaction between the parents and the children (please, correct me with examples if I am wrong). This is just a little odd!
There are several reasons I can think of for why this situation makes for a better, or easier to write story. First, the hero seems more heroic in most reader's eyes if he or she must overcome obstacles without someone else outside doing the majority of the protecting, saving, thinking, advising -- in effect, hero-ing! In addition, accurately portraying a healthy relationship (in human terms) between parents and child is difficult. A lot of people never had that relationship, so cannot write from experience. It is tempting to turn the parents into the antagonists, or into distant advisors, more the founts of wisdom than active participants in the story.
It is sad that this relationship is lacking. One might note that the father-son/daughter relationship between God and His children is also sorely lacking, even in "Christian" books. The prayer, the occasional apology, the spiritual lesson learned, is often all that can be found. What of the constant dependence, prayer and, repentance, love -- the personal relationship?
All the characters I have written into being so far are orphans, or, for the majority of the story, separated from their parents. That is not inherently wrong, but completely neglecting to write about this aspect of life can reflect a general lack of skillfulness in the author, and, more importantly, a lack of respect for the relationship between parents and children.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Maybe I Understand the French Better Now

I dug this up on Wikipedia while researching the wars between India and Pakistan.
coup de grace
The second paragraph is the best. Note "coup de gras"

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Why the Bible is Not #1

I'm having two thoughts.
My first thought is that the Bible shouldn't be on my favorite books list. No, I do like it, actually. A lot. I probably read it more than anything but my Calculus book (I suppose that rules out using reading-time to determine what books I like : ) ). My concern is for reverance. Of course it's a great book! It's the Word of God!! In fact, it's so good that putting it on my favorite books list seems a little like putting Gilbert and Sullivan at the same level as, as NSync. Isn't that a little disrespectful? If you have the integers one through ten, and infinity, and put them in order from least to greatest, do you simply put infinity the same distance from ten as you put ten from nine? Is that really accurate?
My second thought is more of a counter-thought. Shouldn't the Bible always be there? Shouldn't it be the book I like and enjoy most of all?
So, instead of putting it on top of the list, or not on the list at all, I put it somewhere near the bottom. Joben has lost his mind.
I suppose so, but this may not be the appropriate example of my insanity.
You see, this is a favorite books list. I haven't taken it to be a of books I learned the most from, found to be the most spiritually enlightening, correct, inspired, or holy!
The list, it seems to me, is for books I enjoy reading, was entertained by, and found to be of good quality both in style (good medium) and content (good message). The Bible has the best message ever. The medium, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is also the best ever. The style, for a large part, however, is not, shall we say, inspired! Some of the human writers of the bible were not quite masters of the written word. Others were. The Bible is a lot history and record, sometimes giving specs and materials and building techniques for buildings. Some of that is boring to me, other parts of it give me chills. It also has a lot of poetry, prophecy, and address. Weighed out, all in all, I enjoy the Bible a lot...so it's on my favorites list.
But that doesn't seem sufficient -- especially if I don't put it at the top. I need to explain. I just have. The Bible is the Word of God, containing Salvation through the Gospel -- good news -- of the Son of God becoming man and dying for the men who rebelled against their maker. All who believe on Him and His sacrifice to atone for their sins will be saved. What glorious truths! What a story, the true story, that all others can only imitate or pervert! What condescension on the part of God to bring us word of these things! To do these things! Is the inspired word of God not the only perfect thing in this universe? Even Creation is changed and twisted and cursed -- our foe, not our friend. The word speaks Hell to the unbeliever, but only to warn, and to show the way of escape, the way to Heaven! On a list of most important, best, or true-est books, I would always put the Bible first and others far behind.
But that's not how I treated the favorites list; so, the Bible isn't at the top.
Of course, maybe it should be my favorite -- my most enjoyable read. If we characterize books, it is certainly a closer friend and companion to me than any other book, and I put a lot more trust in it than any other book, by the merit of it's divine inspiration (God-spoken-ness) and illumination (God-lit-up-ed-ness). I am not so concerned about not being more entertained by other books than the Bible. The Truth isn't neccessarily so entertaining as it is riveting. Perhaps I should treat it a little more expectantly, as if everything I said about its inspiration were true (imagine that...).
So, I shall strive to love my Lord and Saviour and His book more. Would it not be good to be taught by God to love Scripture above all other books and past-times, to read and sing it's message like food and drink? In the meanwhile, I have honestly ranked it, and written a lengthy explanation for why.
[It took me about five minutes to realize I had not given justice to the Bible in this post, so this is the new and improved version, which is, sadly, still errant and uninspired.]