Monday, September 3, 2012

The Two Eternal Types in Fiction – Part 2

About a week ago I wrote a blog post about the two eternal types in fiction; that is, the two types of heroes. Rather than repeat what I mean by that, I'll just link to that post. I meant to come back to that, but a week of busyness prevented me. I'm here now, ready to discuss Mr. Mabie's article.

Quoting from the article:
When primitive man looked into their hearts and their experience they found their deepest hopes, longings, and possibilities bound up and worked out in two careers: the career of the hero and the career of the wanderer. These two figures became the commanding types of all the nobler mythologies because they symbolized what was best, deepest, and most real in human nature and life. They represent the possible reach and the occasional achievement of the human soul; they stand for that which is potential as well as for that which is actual in human experience. Few men achieve or experience on a great scale, but these few are typical and are, therefore, transcendent in interest.
Now, I realize that just because this found it's way into a magazine article on literary criticism in 1895 doesn't make it true. I first read this to say there are only two types of protagonists in fiction: the hero and the wanderer. I kind of bristled at that at first, thinking to to be an over-simplification. However, I realize now that Mabie is not saying these are the only two types of heroes, but that these became the dominant ones.

I don't suppose he's saying the wanderer can't be a hero. He's saying a hero either stays at home, or he wanders, doing his hero activities in either case. That sounds reasonable to me, and makes me wonder how my heroes/heroines should be classified. Ronny Thompson from In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People probably classifies as a non-wandering hero. Although he leaves his native Haskell County, Kansas, to play major league baseball in Chicago, which takes him to many cities, he is a stay at home kind of guy. His thoughts are always on home, and he struggles with the thought that his dad is there working the farm alone. For him to say he's not going home during the off-season is a major step.

Augustus in Doctor Luke's Assistant is also a stay-at-home hero. He loses his job in Jerusalem and finds another one right there. Despite trips to Galilee and Judean villages, his thoughts are always on home. On the other hand, Luke is clearly a wanderer. He had been with Paul on travels throughout the eastern Mediterranean area, and with little more than knowing a need that a book must be written, picks up and embarks for Israel to see the project through.

What will my future books hold? The sequel to FTSP will involve the same heroes and villains. The sequel to DLA (which I haven't talked about yet and which at this point exists only as a mental outline) will introduce Augustus' sons, one of whom is a hero and the other a wanderer. In China Tour (which I haven't said much about, and which at this point exists only as a mental outline), the male protagonist is a wanderer, but I think his character arc will take him to the point of being a stay-at-home hero.

The years will be interesting, as I ponder Mabrie's theory and see how it applies to my own writing. I don't know if I will wind up agreeing or disagreeing as time goes on.

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