Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Emily's Warrior

Why do we create superheroes? If we are multi-layered, wonderful yet flawed, sometimes strong and sometimes not, why does Emily need to create a perfect man? If Emily’s father is a narcissistic bastard, can she be protected from him by a nice even-tempered man? Not in Emily’s mind. Emily needs a hero to counteract the brutality of her father. Enter Reid, the best friend, to play the part. Reid has already been cast as her superhero, the antidote to her father. Reid’s strength and admirable qualities are elevated, and his flaws are quickly dismissed. The person that she has created as flawless, noble, and fierce cannot have weakness because that would distort the superhero that she has created to protect her from her father. We see this in a passage from Pages in the Wind, when young Emily daydreams about Reid, and what he will grow up to be:

Reid is waiting for the day that he is taller and stronger than my father, and will tower above him in height and mental acuity. His childlike heroism will be replaced with a fierce resolve to rid me of the terror of my father. He’ll look like one of those Roman warriors, handsome and larger than life, capable of anything and afraid of nothing. Reid will be there for justice, to free me from this prison of pain that father has built around me. He will take him down, yes, but for the sake of justice and the love he feels for me. Reid has been sadly aware of the savage cruelty had I have endured, and he will someday avenge this tyranny, even though I have never uttered a single word to him about my life. He knows. He just knows.

When times are dismal, do we look for a fearless warrior? By definition, do both extremes carry similar traits? Are leaders asked to be ruthless, bold, and cunning? Emily needs a hero to combat her villain, but she is unaware that she is creating him. What happens if her superhero leaves? Is she left unarmed? What she doesn’t realize is that the person that left is her. She created him, she breathed him into life. Will she ever see that these super-qualities really belong to her? What then?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Grandma's Hands

We all handle loss differently. It is not easy to know what to say to someone that has suffered loss. The difficulty lies in a fear of saying the wrong thing, or saying something that does not comply with what the bereaved person is feeling. We see this in an excerpt from Pages in the Wind, when Emily tries to understand what people are saying to her after her grandma’s funeral.

I moved slightly to avoid the false mourners, and think about grandma. During my summers at her house, she would walk me to town every day to see the big waterfall at the park. It was a mile-trip, and grandma would hold my hand as we walked. She would say “when I squeeze your hand that is me saying I love you.” That was my grandma. She made the world more bearable in her absence, and more beautiful in her presence.

Not wanting to see the attendants, I closed my eyes. I imagined walking the mile with grandma to the big waterfall. I took one hand and placed it over my other hand. Gently, I squeezed my hand as Grandma did. I shut out the chatter around me and concentrated on Grandma’s face as she walked alongside me. I could hear the gentle rustling of her dress as she walked, and the rhythmic sound of her heels walking in the direction of the park. I felt the warmth of her hand surrounding mine. I felt the gentle squeeze that was her secret signal that she loved me. I was loved by grandma. I sat there for hours, pretending to be asleep so I could feel the gentle squeeze of grandma’s hand. With each squeeze I felt my body relax. Grandma is here. Grandma is here. If I close my eyes she will come to me and signal her love with a gentle squeeze. As long as I can shut out the noise, and close my eyes, grandma will come back to me and I will never have to be alone.

As Emily struggles to find a way to cope with the pain of her grandma’s death, she finds solace in her own way. The pain that she is feeling does not correspond with her surroundings at the memorial, and only intensifies her confusion over how to cope with the loss of her beloved grandma. This is a huge loss for Emily; her grandma was the bridge that she walked on every summer to feel whole and to feel loved. Letting her go means losing that part of herself that made her feel worthwhile. She uses her imagination to bring her grandma back to life, in an effort to stay afloat in a world that is full of despair and loneliness. Can you relate to how Emily is feeling?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Charm and Evil

I am posting this in light of what is going on in our world right now. Charisma can be a destructive force when in the wrong hands...

It is an interesting oxymoron, that charm and evil often exist together. It takes only a short analysis of the notorious villains in history to see that their charismatic skills of persuasion were paramount in victimizing their prey. Bernie Madoff would not have been able to pillage billions from clients without a charming persona and the ability to manipulate investors with a carefully orchestrated image designed to deceive his victims. In Pages in the Wind, Captain Jacob Taylor is able to commit horrendous acts of violence against Emily free of active intervention from anyone.

His charm is illustrated in this passage from Pages in the Wind:

Her father was gregarious and the first one invited to a party, for his quick wit and engaging presence. He was often called on to be the master of ceremonies at naval functions. He was not hindered by inhibitions, and reveled at being the center of attention without looking foolish or self-serving. His co-workers admired him for his intelligence and imposing demeanor, and women found him attractive and seductive. He filled up every room that he walked into. His stride was confident, and in his company you knew that you were in the presence of a man that could have whatever he desired. It was the way he laughed with his eyes, the way he exuded confidence with every step he took, the way he seasoned his conversation with interesting anecdotes.

It must be confusing to young Emily to watch the father that purposefully hurts her to be celebrated by family and friends. She is far too young to discern the difference between the private and public man. She longs for her father's charm to be directed at her. This reinforces the perception that she is hopelessly flawed and unworthy. What will be the long term effect of seeking this approval? Will Emily be drawn to men that are similar to her father? Perhaps more disastrous, will she be prey to men that give her the love and affection that she so desperately needs?