Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Justified Grump

This was just supposed to be a short note on the last post, but it spiraled a bit out of control.

In the part where I discuss characters who suffer life's disappointments but don't become curmudgeons, I was going to include Prince Myshkin from Dostoevsky's The Idiot.  This isn't one of my favorite novels, by any means, but it is usually cited as one of the few novels which features a good man, who rises above disappointment and remains noble.  At the same time, it struck me that while Myshkin was cruelly used (not all that dissimilarly from Philip Carey in Maugham's Of Human Bondage), can one bad love affair really "justify" a character turning into a grump?  After all, there are so many fish in the sea and all that.  I would have an easier time accepting someone who had been disappointed in love many times and/or who never married, maybe not even having a true first love.  (Perhaps prior to the 1960s, a really public jilting would turn a woman into a grumpess.)

Nonetheless, when I think of characters who have become justifiably grumpy in their middle to old age, I am thinking of those who were talented but never reached much success in their careers whether blocked by a rival or not, those who had their dreams dashed in one way or another or who literally had their possessions stolen away* -- or who were married and their spouses left them.  And of course, almost any character who had a spouse or a child die on them.  All these would be reasonable grounds for being a least a bit curmudgeonly.  Having given this broader definition, I probably could come up with more fictional characters, particularly secondary characters, but I am running late and will have to decide later if it is worth coming back around and filling up the roster, so to speak.

* And then of course there are a couple of cases where entire lives were stolen by another in a supernatural fashion.  Here I am thinking of Dostoevsky's The Double as well as Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

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