Thursday, October 26, 2006

When Bad Things Happen

When my Bookman came home from work last night he found me crying over Indiana. No, not the character of Indiana, or Ralph, or Raymon or any of them. I was crying because of what happens to Ophelia. It was so unexpected and so uncalled for that I felt like I had been whacked on the head with an oar. Why did George Sand do that? She could have kept her out of that mess. It's not as if it added all that much to Indiana's sorrow. She barely flinched. I am still upset about it and don't know if I can forgive Sand. However, the incident did lead to a good conversation with my Bookman. We talked about other books with similar situations, when something happens so unexpected it takes your breath away or makes you cry. Sometimes, as in Indiana, they are incidental. Other times your favorite character suffers a random act of violence and dies or survives as a changed person. That moment becomes the egg from which the rest of the story is hatched. But even if the story ends up being a good one, the reader, this reader, is often left with a kernel of grief. The grief is real. And the grief keeps asking, why? And what must it be like for the author? Does she grieve too? Does she shed tears over the life of her character? It must be so much harder for the author who has the power to save the character but must, if she is being honest and true to both story and character, write the dreadful scene. I imagine an enormous amount of courage is required. My grief over Ophelia and other characters I have known is also tinged with a certain amount of pleasure. It felt good to cry. I also know what happens in the story is not real, so added to the pleasure of crying is the pleasure and experience of reading a good book, the submersion of the self in art. A deliciously complex feeling. I said at the beginning I didn't think I could forgive Sand for what she did. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it wasn't exactly right after all and not meaningless as I first thought. The scene provided emotional release to everything that had built up throughout the novel. And now, I near the end, in a calm and somewhat detached state of mind that suits the state of mind of the characters. A brilliant move on Sand's part then if that is what she intended. That doesn't make me like what happens to Ophelia any better though.