The OF Blog: A Question of Character

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Question of Character

Sometimes, I have to take breaks of hours or even days when I'm trying to order my thoughts for a review. There'll be a point, sometimes in the introduction, but usually around the 1/3 to 1/2 mark, where I'll find myself struggling to find that le mot juste. Currently, I'm struggling to define characterizations in multiple stories that revolve around issues of "character."

I have been a huge admirer of Vergil ever since I took a Latin class on his Æneid. Aeneas in particular has such a force of character that it is so difficult at times to define it 2,000 years after the epic was written. The language changed, and connotations behind the word pietas have as well; "piety" is but a pale shadow of the original. I am reviewing two books, Jo Graham's Black Ships and Ursula Le Guin's Lavinia, and for each, I am examining their characterizations in light of Vergil's, since each in her own way plays upon elements embedded in his text.

Difficult as it is to capture pietas, I am also having a problem in defining just how heinous of a person the character of Neoptolemos/Pyrrhus was, both in Vergil's tale and in Graham's, where he is much more of an active character. I translated the flashback passage of Book II, where he dragged Priam to the altar itself before killing him, but I fear that this reprehensible act just will not resonate with a modern audience, so I am struggling to find a way of showing this without devoting much more verbiage to this. After all, I am nearly 1,700 words into this dual review and I still have close to 2/3 to go.

Never thought that "character" would be anywhere near as important in writing a review as it would be in writing a fictional piece. No wonder it takes some authors years to perfect a story, if it is taking me days to write about already-created characters!

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