As I mentioned in a previous post, we’re all fascinated with the journey of what it is to be a human being, to vicariously experience what other people’s inner and physical journeys are like. For me, well-crafted character development (whether told by book or through film) offers us important things; new insights, warnings, hope, permission to dream, a reminder that we’re not alone on our journey.
A few more stories with great character development have been floating around in my mind to share. Some old, some not so old, all timeless.
1. Floundering, by Romy Ash – 2012
Photo credit: http://www.romyash.com/floundering
The story as described at http://www.romyash.com/floundering
‘Tom and Jordy live with their gran. Their mum, Loretta, left them on her doorstep.
Now she wants her boys back.
Tom and Jordy hit the road with Loretta in her beat-up car. They journey across the country, squabbling, bonding, searching and reconnecting.
On the west coast they stop. They take refuge in a beachside caravan park where, at last, the reality of the situation sets in. And now the boys find they have new threats and new fears to face.’
It was Tom and Jordy that kept me turning the pages of this book, needing to know the boys would be okay. The brothers’ relationship is convincingly described through the voice of the young narrator, Tom, and the vivid description of setting. But it is Jordy who changes most. Tom retains his childish naivety and is often unaware how close to danger they are. His older brother Jordy, more wordly-wise than Tom, must slowly come to terms with their deteriorating situation. Jordy’s further loss of innocence, increased responsibility to his brother, and how he deals with it as the novel unfolds is nail biting. Romy Ash’s literary skill is evident by the way readers emotionally invest in the well-being of the brothers.
2. Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams – 1958
Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1ezikZF
I can just watch this version of the movie again and again, and again.
In short, with a little help from Rotten Tomatoes, ‘This dynamic and commanding adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play focuses on a troubled Southern family and the discord over their dying father’s millions.’
Brick, a self-destructive, resentful alcoholic, drinks his days away since the suicide of his ‘best friend’ a year earlier. He resists the affections of his wife, Maggie, believing she had an affair with his friend. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, sparks an overdue, revelatory conversation between father and son.
Elizabeth Taylor plays Maggie brilliantly. Her hen pecking vivacity could initially be misconstrued as shallow and shrill. However, as the story unfolds she coalesces into a passionate, devoted, resilient and intelligent character, aware of and justifiably annoyed by extended family and their manipulations.
Paul Newman (sigh) plays Brick (seriously?) with a depth and command of his craft that engages, enticing the viewer to decipher his complex character. With a relationship complicated by infertility as well as suspected adultery, Tennessee William’s play explored the (additional) taboo topic of sexuality, which is not explicit in the film version. However, it hovers in the background of the movie script, making the viewer wonder. We are left awaiting the marital fate of Brick and Maggie.
Highly recommended viewing.
3. Danny The Champion of The World, by Roald Dahl – 1975
Photo credit: http://www.roalddahlfans.com/books/danncover1.php
If you have primary school aged children, I highly recommend you read this book to or with your offspring, especially boys. I read it as an adult and then went on to read it to my students. Even though it’s not as zany as others, it has become one of my favourite Dahl stories. (Sometimes I think Monty Python is a grown-ups version of Roald Dahl, another time, another blog)
The back cover says, “Danny thinks his dad is the most marvellous and exciting father a boy could wish for. Life is happy and peaceful in their gypsy caravan, until one day Danny discovers his dad has been breaking the law.”
Told with dry and subtle humour, Dahl had the conspiratorial voice of someone who understands the inner workings of a child. With the utmost respect toward his young readers, he reminds them they’re not alone.
‘You will learn as you get older, just as I learned that autumn, that no father is perfect. Grown-ups are complicated creatures, full of quirks and secrets. Some have quirkier quirks and deeper secrets than others, but all of them, including one’s own parents, have two or three private habits hidden up their sleeves that would probably make you gasp if you knew about them.’ Roald Dahl, Danny the Champion of the World
In Dahl’s competent hands, Danny’s character develops richly as he experiences the ambiguities of growing up. He must reconcile his father’s criminal activities with the oppressive Mr Victor Hazel and the dark side of class resentment and oppression. Dahl ensures sure the reader is right there beside Danny as this happens.
Any recommendations for stories with great character development?