Freedom & Necessity (Was RE: Susan Cooper)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Mon Dec 13 01:31:34 EST 1999

Courtney wrote:

>I can relate to this- I also have parents that cannot be believed.
>And I have met people who are as evil as some of his villains.  I
>don't believe him to be artificially cruel or evil to his characters,
>or to create unbelievable villains.  Compare Matilda's parents to
>DWJ's parents, as she describes them in her autobiography.
Having missed a few intervening stages, I hope I can still jump in here.
There seems little argument that DWJ has full awareness of the fact that
really, truly horrible things can and do happen, all the time.  The point
which I see distinguishing DWJ from Dahl is that the main thrust in all of
her books which have such a situation, is always towards the characters
struggling to find a way to be the person they want to be, despite what
they've suffered.  Time of the Ghost is a perfect example: even though
toned down in some instances, the parents are truly horrendous.  But the
book has absolutely *nothing* to say about any punishment the sisters would
want to inflict on the parents.  Similarly with Ivy and Reg in Fire &
Hemlock.  The point is to resist what has to be resisted, and then get on
with your life.  The freedom is to choose exactly how you want to behave,
although you may be in circumstances you've had no choice about.

Much easier said than done, of course, and I've cherished a good few
revenge/just desserts type fantasies in my time, but I still think it's
encouraging to think it can be done.  It's also why I would agree with the
description of Time of the Ghost as dark, but still optimistic.

hallieod at

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