On Everyman (was:Re: Mordion/Tess - Christian Imagery in Hexwood (long))

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Thu Mar 16 02:25:05 EST 2000


Melissa wrote:

> Now I'm cribbing from my old
>Norton Anthology of English Lit:  _Everyman_ is a morality play from the
>Middle English period.  Morality plays were a form of entertaining religious
>instruction that dramatized the moral struggle of Christians in a fallen
>world, caught between the promises of Heaven and the temptations of Hell.
>So "Everyman" (the character) represents, literally, that which is common to
>all humans.  _Everyman_ (the play) has characters representing the virtues
>and vices, all of which "tempt" Everyman to follow them and thus get closer
>to either Heaven or Hell.

I actually read pretty much the same thing in an old Oxford Companion to
English Lit. :-)  Unfortunately, it gave none of the clarification that you
supplied.

>In this case, referring to either Tess or Mordion as Everyman means a
>specific kind of reading; we take the sufferings and struggles of these
>characters as representative of the kind of struggles we all face.  (For
>Mordion to stand, in Philip's reading, as both Christ and Everyman makes
>sense because in Christian theology, Christ is *the* Man--the exemplar for
>all humans, and hence can be a sort of super-Everyman.)  It's a way of
>generalizing a story or plot, ignoring the specifics (like, the Bannus as
>near-magical technology, or the universe as controlled by Reigners) to pick
>out the elements which are general and meaningful to *everyone*.
>
>I'm trying desperately to avoid saying something like "it becomes an
>allegory for Life" or "you can really learn something from it" but I think
>that's really what it comes down to.  It's been my contention for years that
>the *good* modern fantasy is allegory for our time, and even though
>moralizing has gone out of style, I don't think allegory ever will or
>should.  _Hexwood_ is one of my favorite DWJ novels because I have the
>sense, every time I read it, that I still haven't mined it for every ounce
>of possible meaning.  This Everyman/allegorical reading is one of those
>things.

That worked for me!  And wasn't this one of the points Dave Wolverton was
making in the article you sent us?  I mean the allegory, and, if not
moralizing precisely, at least the struggle between good and evil mostly
only being addressed in fantasy?  (Unfortunately, I couldn't find the
original article among the 1053 messages in our in-box to check.)

Thank you very much indeed for the response and explanation.

>>To share a completely useless bit of trivia, The Guardian today published a
>>report of research which showed that London taxi-drivers, who have The
>>Knowledge, actually have larger brains - and the longer they'd been at it,
>>the larger their brains.  So next time someone says that this list expands
>>the brain - it may be literally true!
>
>I wonder if this has anything to do with the amount of time I spend
>chauffeuring kids around town....

I wish!  But I'm afraid it's just the opposite - if your chauffeuring is at
all like mine, it tends to be on three or four routes, over and over and
over and...
(Oops!  See what I mean?  Puts the mind on auto-pilot.)

Hallie
hallieod at indigo.ie


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