Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Character Onion, Not the Satiric One

Because of the way it is formed, the onion may find itself used not only as an ingredient in cooking but literary metaphor as well.  The phrase To peel the onion, suggests the removal of the layers, one by one, with a final destination being the core.  

In many ways, the personalities of persons and characters resemble onions, given the way the layers of each are peeled away by examination.  

The person appears before you in your daily encounters with the world about you.  The character appears in your reading, your critical analysis of what you've read, and your attempts to set characters of your own creation into motion.  

Peeling an onion or constructing one has direct connections for you with Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who was in effect using spare or diverse body parts as ingredients in his attempt to create life via artificial means.

As you read Dr. Frankenstein, your interpretation of his fatal flaw became hubris.  Now, years after you first met him and his works, through unfortunate motion picture ventures, and then through your reading of Mary Shelley's original text, you have arrived at an entirely different vision.  In a collateral sense, this is the same, after-the-fact vision you had of Franz Kafka's character from The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa.

You admire both the works in their original, literary forms.  You also admire their authors. You appreciate having been introduced to them through the mechanism of assigned reading, supplemented with one or more instructor's lecture explications.  You appreciate having been nudged to articulating your own sense of the effect each had on its surrounding society, your interpretation of the author's reason for writing the work, and your articulation of what each work means to you.

How unfortunate to realize your early readings and considerations of the works stopped short of your articulation of what each word meant to you.  At the time of your exposure to each, you were already aware of the concept of the instructor having written and defended at least one thesis.  

You allowed your early decision not to pursue graduate-level study to divert you away from the essential need nevertheless of having a thesis about such things as Dr. Frankenstein's creation or Franz Kafka's characters.  Indeed, you allowed your decision to seek your fortune as a writer become an irony injected into what you like to think of now as a long, deliberate make-up examination in the taking of which you were once again peeling the onion of yourself.

The irony you see now is the way you jumped into your own work without examining your own thesis about much of anything.  You did this in the belief that you were prepared enough.  You were prepared, but in the defended theses of others.  You went forth in a real sense all onion and no tears.

You did not at the time think Dr. Frankenstein would have had greater experiences had he become a writer.  What a remarkable and, in fact, more difficult way to create life than he chose.  Kafka was closer to the mark; he created a riotous and comedic response to his negative feelings about his father by creating a circumstance where the elder Samsa was forced to care for his son, now transformed into a bug.

Without making a direct association, you often use the analogy of an individual or a character as an armature of agenda or desire, about which layers of constraints, inhibitions, and fearful experiences are wrapped.

Onion or armature, you see characters now as some force embedded within a field of irony.  There is struggle, transference of power, tidal surges, and moments of great understanding, all illuminating that field of play.

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