[DWJ] misunderstanding as plot-device (was Re: Last Battle)

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Jun 23 08:10:24 EDT 2006

Charlie wrote:

>>  I like it from the moment they enter the stable, but up till then I get
>> too stressed by the false Aslan plot - as I tend to by all plots that
>> involve mistaken identity, people being accused of crimes they did not
>> commit, misunderstandings, etc (and a lot of plots do). This may be why
>> I've never been a great reader of school stories, where such things seem
>> to go on all the time.
>>  The absence of the nylon-bedazzled Susan never bothered me - I think I'd
>> never quite forgiven her for being so snippy with Lucy in Prince Caspian.

and Ros replied
>Charlie, I'm just like you, here. I always get intensely uncomfortable with
>plots containing the kinds of misunderstandings you describe. I *really*
>don't like all that stuff about the donkey and the Ape either. When I'm
>watching a film and the plot develops in these kinds of ways, it's not
>unusual for me to get up and leave the room (one reason why I'm often
>happier watching something at home on DVD rather than in a cinema). It can
>be troublesome because there is a whole range of such developments that I
>find hard to watch. A lot of what most people call "suspense" really doesn't
>appeal to me.
>I've always felt I was rather strange in not liking this particular kind of
>plot development because as you say, it's pretty common.

I'm with the both of you here about not much enjoying
misunderstanding-driven plots.

I think that one of the reasons I decided not to bother with Harry Potter
was that the one time I was around when one of my offspring was playing a
tape of it, the bits I heard all seemed to involve either what I could only
see as being *wilful* misunderstandings, or people not listening to each
other and jumping on no evidence to the most damning possible conclusions,
and not bothering even to do very basic checks about the plausibility or
possibility of the conclusions they'd just jumped to.  There was something
about a house-elf holding a wand so he must be guilty of summoning some
evil thing, and nobody made any effort to find out what had really
happened, or asked the witnesses, or tried to establish whether he would
have been *able* to use someone else's wand, or anything.  I wasn't

By accounts I've been given, much of the plotting revolves round even
Harry's "best friends" habitually assuming that he's behaving in a way that
makes him odious, for no particular reason -- I mean, no reason he would do
it and also no reason for them to assume it.  And I'm told that nobody ever
talks to each other at the time about what's bothering them, they just lose
their tempers and fling accusations around and then stomp off, instead.
(I'm also told that this makes for touching scenes of reconciliation, along
"how could I have doubted you?" lines, and then it all happens again next
book because they forget the last time.  Bah.)

Have I been given false accounts of things, or would people on this list
who've read the books say that it does happen rather a lot?


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