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When Characters Are Wrong

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When Characters Are Wrong

Postby Clive Staples Sibelius » Feb 19, 2010 8:41 am

It's struck me many many times while reading/listening to the Narnia books how often the good characters are wrong about something. The biggest examples come from two books and are connected.

First, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy reads the spell to make things visible again. She turns around, and sees Aslan. "You have made me visible," he tells her. Then Lucy thinks he's making fun of her, since NOBODY can REALLY make Aslan visible. After all, he's God. Aslan replies to that: "Do you think I wouldn't obey my own rules?"

The point is not that Lucy can make Aslan do what she wants because he's less than wholly God. Rather, it seems to me, Aslan is saying that while in Narnia, he plays by Narnia's rules. In other words, God becomes a man while on earth (while fully retaining his divinity, as Christianity teaches).

Now, in The Last Battle, both Tirian and Jewel rebuke Roonwit the centaur. The rumors of Aslan coming back clash with what the stars say. Jewel the unicorn says, "I wonder if Aslan might not come though all the stars said otherwise." He humbly makes the same mistake that Lucy made in VDT. It's not a mistake Aslan would be angry at, but it is a mistake.

Furthermore, Tirian misuses the famous "Aslan is not a tame lion" phrase in rebuking Roonwit, though not to malicious intent as Shift does to Puzzle and the other creatures.

In fact, Narnia's heroes are OFTEN wrong (even Lucy, for those who see her as a good-too-shoes). You might even say that the books are ABOUT the characters being wrong, and needing to be set right with/by Aslan. At least, that's one layer of the books.
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby DiGoRyKiRkE » Feb 19, 2010 10:48 am

But coudln't it be argued that that attribute of the books is one of the most endearing to flawed people? I know that if the characters never made any sort of mistake, the books would be much more boring, for it's the mistakes, and the consequences that come from making those mistakes that make the books applicable to our lives.

It must also be considered that perfect characters who never make mistakes are incredibly difficult to write. As an author myself, I can scarcely imagine how C.S. Lewis was able to write Aslan as well as he did. Working with flawed characters is much easier, and it also allows readers to relate to them.
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby Clive Staples Sibelius » Feb 19, 2010 11:15 am

Digory,

So true. Flawed characters are much more relatable. Having them make mistakes is a natural part of the writing process. I'm sure that was the case for Lewis as well, though he seem to have put a bigger point on it by having them learn how they are wrong when they meet Aslan. I should also point out that most of these are more than merely "cute" foibles. Even Aslan tells Reepicheep if he does not put too much store by his honor.

I'd like to discuss other examples of characters being wrong, and what other posters think about them :).
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby Aravis Narnia » Feb 19, 2010 12:14 pm

All characters except for Aslan ARE to have flaws. This is another clue by four as to who Aslan really is. May not be the most obvious reference, but yes it is a hint.

Anyhow, one of my favorite ones is when Caspian becomes all arrogant somewhere in VDT, then comes back crying after seeing Aslan's face.
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby Clive Staples Sibelius » Feb 19, 2010 12:51 pm

Aravis Narnia,

Quite! It was also somewhat humorous, since Caspian had been pretty aloof throughout the book ;) .
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby sweeetlilgurlie » Feb 23, 2010 6:28 pm

Indeed, it does endear the books to me. I hate it when characters in books say something very certainly and are always right. It's maddening!
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby Lion's Emblem » Feb 23, 2010 10:06 pm

It's important to see that these characters do have flaws and make mistakes. It makes them feel more human and real. It just may be why fans are so drawn to these characters, they make mistakes just like all the rest of us no matter how good or perfect they seem. The important thing is that they learn from these mistakes and continue to grow in understanding. To me, that's a much more enjoyable read in character development than a character who already knows the answers and how to approach a problem.
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby Claire-ayes » Feb 24, 2010 1:29 pm

I completely agree - I consider this a major theme throughout the books.

Whether it's big mistakes - Edmund in LWW, Eustace and Caspian in VDT and Jill in SC - or small mistakes like your Lucy/Tirian thing about misunderstanding Aslan. It all highlights the humanity of the characters to us, as well as showing us how much they really have to learn about Aslan (even Lucy!).

Also, as other people have pointed out, it makes the books a whole lot more interesting. Lots of people's favourite characters are the most flawed characters in there!

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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby Lucy P. » Feb 26, 2010 11:12 am

Yes, in stories when a character is flawed it creates conflict within that character, and that is what interests the reader. Add a twisty plot and you've got the reader hooked!

Of course, there are stories in which the character is completely flawless, like Beowulf, and these sorts of characters are interesting because they represent the greatest ideals of a culture. In a sense they are Christ-figures. Of course, the Christ-figure in Narnia is Aslan, but he is not the main character in the series.
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby Clive Staples Sibelius » Feb 26, 2010 3:01 pm

Lucy P.,

True that, about Beowulf. He wasn't completely flawless though. He let one of his guys get eaten by Grendel just so he could launch his surprise attack. Good tactics, but perhaps not such great morals :-\ .

Now, if you read "The Song of Roland," you get a main hero who is not only flawed (he was too proud to call for help for his army), but self-righteous and arrogant as well. It takes him about 30 stanzas to die from the time he is mortally wounded until he is actually dead :p . Not my favorite character, but a vastly entertaining story. Medieval version of the comic book.
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby DiGoRyKiRkE » Feb 26, 2010 5:32 pm

MOD NOTE: Try to stay on topic guys. If you want to talk about Beowulf or other flawed characters that are outside the realm of Narnia, then it will have to go to another part of the forum. Try keeping your conversations about Narnia, and the characters therein.

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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby TheGeneral » Feb 26, 2010 9:08 pm

It's true that when characters have flaws it's more interesting to read. But sometimes certain characters and their flaws really annoy me, lol.
Like Aravis and some of the stuck-up things she said/did, or the kids not believing that Lucy saw Aslan in PC (seriously, she was right about the wardobe in LWW, and you're going to doubt her again?). Things like that make me want to reach into the book and shake sense into them lol :p
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby DamselJillPole » Apr 03, 2010 3:17 pm

DiGoRyKiRkE wrote: Working with flawed characters is much easier, and it also allows readers to relate to them.


Exactly the way how i was going to put it. A character cannot not have flaws otherwise you'd be stuck reading about an all perfect character which by the way is not interesting.
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Re: When Characters Are Wrong

Postby Lucy P. » Apr 04, 2010 7:42 pm

It's true that flawed characters are more interesting, because one of the important components in a plot is conflict within a character. If a character is morally perfect, he will make the right decision all the time with ease, and the story would not catch anyone's attention.
I think it's for this reason that some people prefer Scrubb and Pole to the Pevensies-- Eustace and Jill make more mistakes, and therefore are more interesting and easier to relate to.
Not that you can't have an exceptionally good person who is also interesting in real life. It's just that for book and movie production it's easier to captivate audiences with less-than-perfect-characters.
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