People vs. Characters

In teaching Of Mice and Men this week, I came to the startling realization that I have a crush on Slim. Yes, Slim. Why Slim, you ask? Well, it’s quite simple, really. I love a real man. As far as fictional characters go, Slim as about as manly as it gets, and though he is idealized in a lot of ways, he is also very real.

Slim isn’t the only character I’ve gotten attached to over the years. There have been many. Fitzwilliam Darcy (what woman hasn’t fallen in love with this terrifically flawed ideal?),  Theodore ‘Laurie’ (Teddy) Laurence (I was devastated when Jo said no; though it was really the only answer she could give—I still felt it deep), Tom Shaw, among a myriad of others. And what is about these characters that attract my admiration?

Loyalty. In a world where people flit from idea to idea, object to object, relationship to relationship—loyalty has become old fashioned. Call me an Old Fashioned girl, but I find loyalty to be a honorable quality that few people can truly define, but most men in my “literary crush” repertoire possess. We need more people in the world who feel a deep sense of loyalty not only in relationships but to other aspect of life as well. Because, after all, if you can’t be loyal to something or someone, what purpose do you live for?

As an avid reader, I’m often invested in characters on levels which are borderline unhealthy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grounded in reality, which is probably why I’m still single. I realize that no matter how much I want them to, the men I date don’t stand a chance when compared to my ideal built up in years of reading and building a personal character study. And maybe that’s unfair, but it’s out there and like it or not, it’s a real part of who I am.

So what do I do with this realization? Do I stop reading? No, I don’t think so. I think it’s actually becoming more of a challenge for me. Instead of focusing on how people (myself included) do or do not meet my qualifications for the ideal, I wonder if I can’t start treating them as characters in my own story.  If I start viewing people as terrific, albeit flawed characters, maybe I can begin to judge less and accept more. That is, after all, what I should be doing all along.

Art mimics life; life mimics art—it’s all entwined.

So here are my questions for you:

Can we see people as characters, or will they always just be people? Is there even a real difference?

Who are the people of your literary dreams that cause you to ponder, wonder, and question the world?

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