Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Think We Need the "Golden Mean" Here

In the previous post, I was complaining because Katniss in Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay was so overwhelmed by her PTSD following two trips to the Hunger Games arena and playing a major role in a revolution. Well, the book I'm reading now  -- Pioneer Breed by Glenn Vernam -- swings too far in the opposite direction.

Pioneer Breed begins with the deaths of the main character's (Rance) parents at the hands of a group of rogue Indians.  Rance was an only child, so he has to deal with their deaths and with carrying on the life on their farm by himself. Later, he comes across another massacre scene while he's out hunting, and he finds the only survivor, a teen girl he calls Tenny. He takes her home and nurses her back to health.

While Katniss was wallowing in self-pity and emptiness, Rance seems unphased by the horrific events of his life. There are a couple of mentions of him being lonely and having a lump in his throat at the thought of his parents, but generally, he's pretty happy, especially once Tenny is around (more about that in a different post).  Here's about as depressed as Rance gets:

"No more did he have to work himself into drugged insensibility in order to find a sleep that was free of tortured misery; no more were his working days haunted by the double grave below the spring; no more was stark loneliness a grim specter staring over his shoulder. He need only think of Tenny to feel himself surrounded by comforting care and cheerful friendship, all the horrible emptiness of the past mercifully shunted aside."

Part of what is at issue here is "telling, not showing" as a writing style, and I'll have more to say about that in a later post. It may also be that since this book was published in 1972, there was not such an emphasis on realism. Stories seem to have a much more intimate approach now, putting readers right into the heads of the characters and letting us feel their emotions. I guess since I'm so used to that style now, this book just seems to gloss over the ugliness to the point of being almost funny.

There's got to be a middle ground between being numb with pain following trauma and being oblivious to the pain.....

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