Freedom & Necessity (Was RE: Susan Cooper)

CCHANG at trailing-edge.com CCHANG at trailing-edge.com
Sun Dec 12 09:09:14 EST 1999


[I thought Dahl was too cruel to his characters]

(this is me)
(Sorry, I can't get my mail program to quote and reply correctly)
(And sorry for the lengthy babbling.)

> >One of the reasons I like DWJ's books is that her characters get
> >themselves into trouble. It doesn't feel like the author is unfairly
> >piling difficulties onto them. (Fair difficulties are great...)

(this is Courtney)

> I would have to disagree with the assertation that DWJ's characters
> get themselves into trouble.  How about Vivian in Time City, or the
> Kathleen in Dogsbody, or David in Eight Days of Luke?

Ok, I do grant the initial conditions/troubles, but it always
seems that however bad those are, the characters manage to make them
worse (before making them better.)

Vivian: once she's taken to Time City, she goes along with the boys'
plan and pretends to be their cousin, rather than taking her chances
with the Timelords (or whatever). Then she goes running around, looking
for the Toys of Rassilon (er, the caskets of Faber John), etc.,
putting herself in a lot of danger in doing so.

Kathleen in Dogsbody: she goes and adopts this puppy, which makes things
worse for her for awhile.

David: he goes and lets out Luke, then continues to interact with him,
stands up for him to the ones after him, and to top it off, he accepts
a dangerous challenge from Wednesday...

> I am one of those odd people who like Dahl... and in defense of his

Actually, I think I was thinking of Harry Potter when I wrote that.
Oops. Too much Teletubbies has turned my brain soggy.

It's Harry Potter where I feel the author messing with the characters'
lives. Not just because he's made an orphan, etc., but because the people
who force him to live with the evil uncle/aunt are powerful magicians
who plan to have Harry go to their school someday and become a 
powerful, good magician himself! It's all very well to say he needs
to learn humility, but having him abused and locked under the cupboard
is just asking for him to grow up twisted and crippled. And the magicians
clearly did have the ability to keep an eye on his situation.
It's as if Merlin fostered Arthur off to some horrible family that
hated the kid. And then, once Harry is "rescued", he just gets swept
along for much of the book. He's oh so wonderful and gifted and famous,
gets away with everything, etc. Not that I didn't enjoy reading the
book, it's just that some of these aspects bugged me.

And for other examples of what I mean, there's Mercedes Lackey's
Arrows of the Queen trilogy....poor widdle Talia, stuck in some
horrible family/society, forced into a child marriage, etc., until
she is rescued by the oh so wonderful telepathic magic horses
and their people... the "bad" society seems extreme and out of
place in the Magic Kingdom, where the authorities are supernaturally
selected to be Good, and have Powers. Not that I didn't enjoy reading
those books, either, after all, I did buy all three, and even read
the Last Herald Mage trilogy.

And then there's Orson Scott Card...eek. Especially after reading his
books on writing, I could never see his books the same way again.
Extremely manipulative, emotionally. Making the heros suffer, especially
children, to gain reader sympathy... _Speaker for the Dead_ was one
of the worst offenders. The situation not believeable. Even after granting
the made-up biology, etc., it was just too much to say that after
years (close to a century?) of study (and this is in the far future,
science much advanced by then) of the aliens, the normal scientists
could not figure out the aliens' life cycle, but the hero, Ender,
can do it as soon as he walks on the scene. And the reasons the people
in the book are hiding crucial information from each other are just not
credible. And worst of all, he CHANGED THE ENDING of the book in the
second edition in order to make the characters suffer more in the
sequels!!! ARRGH! How can you do that to your characters?

> work, I would like to refer you all to this quote from the 
> second letter that DWJ sent to Deborah:

[bad parents]

> (http://www.suberic.net/dwj/letter-25July96.html)

I'm not saying bad parents don't exist or are unbelievable.
Just that USING them in a story just to manipulate the readers
(and not doing it well enough that you don't see the manipulation)
is annoying.

Actually, I guess I must like Dahl somewhat...I did buy two
of his books (Matilda and The Witches). I think I like the
beginnings for their humor, but then lose interest or something.
And was Dahl the one who wrote that short story where a woman
murdered her husband with a leg of lamb, then cooked the murder
weapon and ate it with the policeman who was investigating?
Sort of an anti-"Telltale Heart" story. That story I will always
remember...

Celeste Chang
cchang at trailing-edge.com
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