In Which I Am Mawkish and Rambly But It’s About Books So It’s Ok


Every once in awhile I’m reminded of how powerful words and stories can be. That’s not to say that I’m not always aware of this fact, but there are times when it’s a little more in focus.  

I’ve been reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. Science fiction isn’t really my thing, but when school work demands it, then we do it. More or less. 

I was relishing the fact that I did get a chance to read it, though, because I’ve done nothing but marvel at it since I started. The writing is fluid, and the concepts seem so fresh and sincere to me (I’m indulging, let me indulge), but mostly I’ve been marvelling at the main character, Shevek. And “marvelling”, as we all know, is just code for “adding to the ever growing list of literary characters to lust after”. Duh. 

He’s got his flaws but he exudes this goodness, and calm, and a level-headedness all of which I found admirable. I suppose it also helps that he’s a genius in his world, a world he is attempting to understand and improve. 

When you start growing fond of a character, you always want them to win. And when you see that stumbling block looming ahead, that block that will test their strength, you can just feel your whole body stiffening in dread, and you’re afraid that they’re going to let you down. But then that little voice squeaks “I still have hope. I think they will triumph.” Well, my little voice is currently cowering its cave of shame because it was totally and utterly wrong. My character failed me. He disappointed me. 

And the disappointment was strong. The sinking-in-the-stomach-feeling strong. The I-can’t-believe-you-let-me-down-like-that-and-yes-I’m-talking-to-a-fctional-character strong. Yes. That kind of strong.

It shouldn’t be surprising to such a bookworm as myself, I suppose. But it was. And this time I couldn’t help thinking about how we let ourselves become invested so much in fiction, so much so that the actions of an imaginary person can influence our mood so strongly.

Whenever (real) life disappoints me, I always find myself thinking of that quote from Pride and Prejudice: The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and everyday confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense”, usually remembered with some bitterness. I’ve never before thought of it in relation to a fictional character, though. 

But as I said, it shouldn’t be surprising really. Stories will always hold sway if you let them. I cheered when Matilda finally escaped her horrid family to live with Miss Honey. I felt a burning pride when Jane Eyre found the strength to stay true to herself despite the forces of many around her. And I cried like a baby when Dobby died. So it’s only natural that my favourite characters could also anger me so. 

I’m sure that there are others who’ve felt the same way. What else can account for the popularity of reading? It engages thoughts and feelings, and it’s both pleasure and pain. Words, stories and their power always continue to amaze me.  

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6 thoughts on “In Which I Am Mawkish and Rambly But It’s About Books So It’s Ok

  1. I haven't heard of The Dispossessed but I know what you mean about fictional characters affecting us. I cried when Dobby died too. And I just recently went back and read that passage, because I was posting something on Instagram, but, I teared up upon reading that passage again! It's kind of crazy to think that books can evoke feelings like that.

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  2. I'm not much for sci-fi but I have heard that le Guin is a good writer. It's been awhile since I really fell in love with a character but I know what you're talking about–when a writer can make a character so real, with flaws as well as admirable traits, it is incredible…and one of the reason why I love to read.

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  3. @Naida: I know! I still get choked up from just flipping through that scene. It's amazing and crazy, this power that stories have over us.

    @Jane: This was my first experience with her and it was pretty excellent. And yes, that feeling's the best, and a big reason for reading.

    @Lainy: It isn't mine either, and tbh I wouldn't have picked it up if not for school, so I'm glad I got this chance! Thanks for your comment 🙂

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  4. Even though this post is from a few months ago, I just want to say that I can relate completely when it comes to the power of fiction and characters. Just thinking about Snape and Lily's backstory from the HP books makes my heart tear up, and whenever I read Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe I cry for at least five minutes. Don't even get me started on the immense amount of emotion I experience with it comes to Britin from QAF…

    Anyway, wonderful post, you convey the frustrating yet magical feeling of connecting with characters. It's one of the reasons I read, and I'm sure many others feel the same.

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  5. Ohmigoodness yes, Snape's story – his complete loneliness and (self) isolation always gets me (though I don't think it totally absolves him of the terrible things he did). I still need to read that one! It's been on my tbr for ages and ages, and from what you say, sounds like a powerful book. Haha, Britin…I haven't even watched all of it, and they still get me.

    Definitely. It's a common thing, this power that fiction has, but I always have to stop and marvel at times – it just seems so crazy. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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