When I saw this book, Why Do We Care About Literary Characters? by Blakely Vermeule, arrive at the library the other day, I immediately thought of several answers without even opening it. You can probably come up with some of your own, and please feel free to share. Here are just a few I thought of:
- Because we’ve all had a friend who tried to play matchmaker.
- Because Falstaff is just like our favorite uncle–but without the smell.
- Because we’d like to think that, if we ever found ourselves in King Arthur’s court, we’d invent the telephone, gun powder, soap, bicycles, and electric fences and earn the title The Boss.
- Because we all know people we’d like to seal up behind a brick wall.
- Because tilting at windmills actually sounds pretty fun.
- Because living four hundred years and traveling all around the world while working on a poem about an oak tree would be really cool.
- Because keeping a picture of ourselves in the attic would be cheaper than plastic surgery.
- Because we’d all like to be able to turn into a bat.
- Because everybody, at some point, has woken up to find they’ve been turned into a giant cockroach.
- Because we all, at some point, will depend on the kindness of strangers.
- Because literary characters will never die, betray us, borrow money and then “forget” to pay it back, call us up at 3am because they need to be bailed out, eat the last slice of pizza, or make us sit through a horrible movie with them.
That last one may be a reason why we care about literary characters, but will also be a reason why literary characters will never be as good as real friends. Yes, that’s a sappy, sentimental ending, but admit it: you know it’s true.