Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Trickster in Fiction and Reality

Almost whiteout your awareness of it, you were being introduced to the archetypal idea, of the hero an individual, usually male, who represented the characteristics of an alloy of strength, idealism, and a regard for the social contract.  

Heroes, most of them males, however action-driven they were, held doors open for ladies, fought fairly (which you learned early on mean not hitting below the belt line), seemed always to favor the underdog, and when scolded by their mother or an older woman, knew enough to say, "Yes, ma'am."

Even as you were lapping them up, you knew something was wrong, and as you began reading histories of many of the events that were examined in books pretending to be accurate accounts, you realized two important things.  In addition to being heroic, heroes were often bullies or worse, and heroes tended to either be naive to a fault or not very bright.

Soon enough, you became more interested in the sort of narrative champion referred to as the anti-hero, meaning they did things less for idealism than as a protest against some entrenched order or some system that preyed on the working classes.  As your interest and awareness of politics came into your thinking, you began to see many anti-heroes as exemplars of Marxist thought, which did not always win you points with teachers.

Anti-heroes are men and women who become aware of how some advantage is being taken of them.  Rather than accept or flee, they organize some form of opposition, with the end result of being able to live in peace, on their own terms. 

Some of these anti-heroes, such as Huck Finn and, about a century later, John Yossarian, discover that they cannot be allowed to live in peace so they are forced to flee, Huck for the territory ahead, and Yossarian for Sweden, which was a neutral in World War II.

Reflecting on your growth as a reader, your contemporary preferences, and your own personal politics, your esteem for the anti-hero is steady, aspects of anti-heroic behavior spilling over into the men and women you present to the world as characters in your own stories.  

Even now, as you work to get a group of nonfiction projects down on paper to your liking, an anti-hero of your own concoction is tapping his fingers on your desk with the impatience of a man who wishes to lead his own charge against a system you see as one of entitlement.

Your character has been with you ever since his first appearance in a short story that appeared in the humor magazine of your university.  If he were to be Googled, this character of yours would  be shown to have published at least three novels because, like you, he was working at finding his voice.  Now, he has.  He is in many ways like you, but in many others not.  For one important thing, he has earned considerably more than you have, in ways that have left him with the attitude of another sort of character you admire and have spent time considering.

This character is a chip off the old block of the anti-hero, or maybe the anti-hero is a chip off the block of this sort, which is The Trickster, a male or female who makes fun of pomposity and self-importance in individuals and their institutions.  The greatest potential of all is that a character of your own creation can turn into a Trickster who has among other agendas the goal of making fun of you.

At the present moment, your focus is on the fictional Trickster created by a man who, himself, was a notorious Trickster in his life time, born as Julius Marx, but better known to the world he tricked incessantly as Groucho.

Marx's Trickster was often Captain Geoffrey Spaulding, who called himself an African explorer.  Spaulding's slouch of a gait was a deliberate take-off on the way Teddy Roosevelt walked, his wink one of sly sexual mischief.  When the mischief was not sexual, it had to do with impersonations, and supporting itself by its wits.

More of the Trickster to follow.  He and she make appearances in the most unlikely but wonderful places.

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