The two sides of every person
s a person who holds a degree in English, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the hobby I have been most dedicated to for my 25 years surrounds books.
From “Harry Potter” to “Pride and Prejudice,” I always had a companion. On the surface, these two books may not have much in common aside from both authors’ being British. However, both have two very clear scenes in it that I will never forget: when Sirius dies and when Mr. Darcy declares his love for Elizabeth. I don’t just remember the words on the page but the emotions they illicited. Shock and disbelief was forefront in both scenes, despite the major differences in the two stories.
Though I have wanted to be a writer long before I read either of those scenes in junior high, it was exactly those kinds of scenes that have sparked a passion for words.
When I got to college and started taking creative writing and narrative theory classes, it stopped being about the feeling I felt, but why did I feel that way. In many ways, studying literature is studying human nature.
I quickly had to learn that it was the juxtaposition of good and bad qualities that make characters memorable. No one likes reading a book about a completely perfect protagonist.
Sirius was a perfect surrogate father for Harry for two books in the series, but that was because of his flaws. He was a risk taker, but he was full of love and life. Those qualities are what forged a friendship between Sirius and Harry’s father to begin with, and they were lacking from his home life with the Dursleys.
Mr. Darcy also begins as a flawed character. His shyness and strict manners make him appear to be cold and uncaring. Plus it doesn’t help that the main character, Elizabeth, does not like him at all. Just as he starts off all bad, Elizabeth starts off all good. Upon subsequent reads, you may see her self-righteous attitude shine through, but since it’s subtle, it’s easy to miss the first time.
Whenever someone tells me they’re trying to read it, but it’s boring. I tell them just to make it to the scene in Hunsford when Elizabeth is visiting the Collinses. Up until that point, the characters are very one-dimensional, and the depth that starts to emerge in the second half is what creates some of the best characters in English literature.
Incorporating that into my own writing was a challenge. In my first creative writing class, my professor’s critique said he really wanted to see my main character sneaking a cigarette on the back porch. Eventually, I realized it wasn’t about that particular vice, but that she had a vice because vices are what humanize people.
Since then, I’ve had no problem accepting that and working to incorporate that into my writing. But it hadn’t occurred to me until recently that conflicting ideals, values and personality traits plague each and every one of us every day.
Sometimes it’s not even about virtue versus vice. Sometimes it’s just two sides that don’t make sense together. For example, I love going out and experiencing something, a party, a play, anything, but I have the hardest time getting myself out the door. Social interactions take a lot out of me, and sometimes it’s just easier to stay and watch “Friends” for the 18th time.
While those two sides may make little sense to someone else, I understand it perfectly. We tend to accept these two sides in ourselves while rejecting it in others. We accept flaws by justifying our good aspects. And yet when someone else makes a mistake, we tend to give as little slack as possible.
With advent just around the corner and with it the beginning of the church year, now is just as good of a time as any to share God’s grace by looking for virtues rather than flaws.
Julia Miller is the lifestyles editor of The Daily Leader. She can be contacted at email@example.com
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