MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2, 2011: Storybook Weddings

Perhaps these posts reveal more about my psyche than you’d like to know, but I had to follow up yesterday’s with five more American women to whom I’d say “I do”—this time, five particularly impressive fictional characters:

1)      Phoebe Pyncheon, from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables (1851): Country cousin Phoebe has a bit of the “too good to be true” thing going on, but not entirely—she does grow darker and more complex as the novel progresses, and becomes in the process a heroine who can both embody and yet transcend some her family’s and the novel’s most powerful histories and identities.

2)      Janet Miller, from Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition (1901): A mixed-race beauty whose understanding and forgiveness are linchpins of this amazing novel’s plot and themes, Janet is also a great mother and can deliver a devastating verbal takedown when the situation calls for it.

3)      Ántonia Shimerda, from Willa Cather’s My Ántonia (1918): Jim Burden, Cather’s novelist-narrator, admits that what he writes is his version of Ántonia, and later adds that she’s pretty much his ideal woman. So sure, he’s biased. But if you can read through this text and not fall in love with Ántonia in your own right, well, to quote Monica Geller (a somewhat less impressive but funny fictional character), you’re dead inside.

4)      Anne Stanton, from Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men (1946): Jack Burden (no relation to Jim) does just about everything a man can do to escape Anne, and the histories and truths she might force him to recognize, confront, and incorporate into his own identity. That he fails so completely, and ends up (spoiler alert) married both to Anne and to “the awful responsibility of time,” makes for one of American literature’s hardest-earnest and most genuinely happy endings.

5)      Ts’eh, from Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony (1977): It’s possible that this woman is just a dream, or a mythological apparition, or a spirit guide. She’s also married to a hunter who is himself either such a spiritual figure or, y’know, is her husband. Doesn’t matter at all—I love her just as much as Silko’s Tayo does. And since that love is a profoundly cleansing and healing one, that’s fine by me.

More tomorrow,

Ben

PS. Once again, links within those entries. So any fictional characters you’d commit to for life?

2 comments:

  1. Silko's Ceremony is one of my rare fave fictional books.

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  2. Hi Maggi,

    Yeah, one of the greatest American novels for sure! Thanks for the response, see you very soon,

    Ben

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