Seb in F&H (Was RE: criticism gone awry)

McMullin, Elise mcmullea at kl.com
Wed Aug 25 15:05:04 EDT 1999


	Max/Tanaquil2 wrote:

>"I think most people would be more likely, as Seb would, to try and avoid
>that kind of pain at all costs.  Keeping going was for him a constant battle;
>he was literally fighting for his life, and perhaps that sort of 'fighting'
>is too hard a 
>habit to break.  You come to value your own life above all other things, and
>it seals you off from the kind of love Polly and Thomas have.  And if you're
>that sealed off from life and love what are you saving your life *for*?  It
>becomes a sort of hoarding up of life, like pennies at the bank.  Not much
>joy there. Thomas fought for his life too, but he managed to stay human--warm
>and loving and generous with his creativity--rather than human in Seb's
way--fallible and weak and fearful."

I have very mixed feelings about Seb and this makes him a very difficult
and interesting character to me.  I feel very sorry for him and shudder
to think of the life he had to lead and the company he had to keep in
his "family."  I want him to be helped or to help himself and change.  I
find I want the redemption of Seb.

Even more vehemently, I distrust and dislike him.  I have this
unshakeable conviction that if he thinks he wants or needs something or
someone he will stop at nothing, stoop to any depth to get it. But
that's not the part that makes him a character that bothers me
outrageously.  I distrust and dislike him so much because I know that as
soon as he bores, tires or finds that something or someone irrelevant or
unnecessary, or sees another shiny something or someone to acquire
instead, than whatever it is he spent all that time and energy acquiring
will be tossed aside without a second thought or any concern.  I felt
that anything Polly could have done for him would have been completely
forgotten by him as soon as the service was rendered, the danger passed,
his hide preserved.  I think I dislike him all the more because I do
have sympathy for his plight.

Does anyone find this?  Any other characters in dwj to whom you strongly
>react?
>       
>"Where's the line after all between Thomas and Polly trying to get what they 
>want, and, say, Seb, or Morton Leroy, or Ivy grabbing a little happiness for 
herself?"

Regarding the difference between them, I can only think of the question
- does the end justify the means or the means justify the end?  Polly's
parents were another pair that really steamed me up.  What disappointing
people dwj peopled the story with.  But they certainly helped show the
difference between people who hew to integrity and people who can't
stand how integrity would cramp their style or sometimes thwart their
desires.  And look how many of the bad/weak/disappointing characters
just could not imagine being at all happy or take joy in anything unless
they were getting their various desires fulfilled - endless conditions
and demands on happiness. 

>"And what about Laurel?  (Who was it on the list who described her 
>as "pungently evil'? Love that phrase!)  Her view of life seems so alien and 
>distant from the real, human world.  She seems to be in another sphere 
>altogether morally, emotionally.  She kind of makes me think of a vampire in 
>a creepy way.  Her only access to human warmth is by sucking up the human 
life of others.  Wouldn't like to meet her on a dark street."

A mystery to me.  I can't imagine how someone like this occupies their
time or manages to enjoy themselves without getting hopelessly bored
with how unchanging they are, inside particularly.  It's impossible to
imagine Laurel taking up gardening or ending up compassionate through
any learning process.  She's just a terminus, leading nowhere.
Unchanging. A trap for the unwary (that's what I used to call my own AB
::chuckle:: who certainly deserved to meet up with a Laurel one day, if
>anyone could deserve such a fate)


>PS.  I remember walking in Manhattan a few years back (around Greenwich 
>Village or Tribeca I think) and seeing first Morton Street, then next street 
>on, Leroy Street.  I just about jumped out of my skin.

Eeek! 

>PPS.  I wish DWJ would e-mail this list and answer all these questions!

Wonder if she lurks....

Elise
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