Nonbelieving Literati: Remember Hypatia - Bryan Trent  

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I enjoyed the ideas and the story in this book, but the characters drove me nuts. It's not really the writing that I have a problem with so much, but the notion that people can be characterized as "good" and "evil".

I have a problem with absolute good and evil or good and evil personified. In fiction I'm more lax in my judgments, but I think that Trent could have made a better point if he wouldn't have made his characters so one-sided.

Issues rarely have only two sides. They're too complex to be divided into right and wrong, good and evil. Yes, I can sometimes say with absolute certainty that something that is being done in the world is wrong. But that doesn't make the people behind it evil.

The mob may perform horrific acts when goaded by dishonorable words and actions, but they are in the end still people. They're the people like the ones I interact with everyday. They're people just like me.

Cyril and Peter were like Gargamel and Azrael - cartoon characters, except without the comedy. They had their own dreadful inflictions, but nothing they did was ever remotely portrayed as human.

I realize it's a tried and true tactic to make a person into something alien or hateful in order to dehumanize him or her. When we go to war it's considered patriotic demonize the other side. But rational, intelligent people should be able to look past the devil horns.

Even so, every group to some extent, personifies the people who are outside the group as different whether they're not as smart, not as moral, not as trustworthy, not as charitable, or in some other way not as virtuous or not as good. It's an instinctive urge we all feel.

To give over to that urge is the real tragedy. In the end it's really ideas that are the true enemy.

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5 comments: to “ Nonbelieving Literati: Remember Hypatia - Bryan Trent

  • John Evo
    Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 2:01:00 AM CDT  

    Great point about the 2 dimensional characters. I didn't really think too much about WHY it wasn't great. I actually didn't THINK much at all while reading it. There's an indictment for you.

  • Anonymous
    Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 8:24:00 AM CDT  

    I share your distaste for one dimensional characters, Ordinary Girl. Especially in this age of Karl Rove and Rick Davis I have become sick of some people's efforts to demonize other folks. Doing so is not only based on implicit lies about the nature of people, but it's also malicious. Thank you for a very good post!

    By the way, I'm in love with how your blog looks these days.

  • The Ridger, FCD
    Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 8:33:00 AM CDT  

    No-one in this book was more than 2-dimensional. Most were one. Marina was possibly the worst, but Peter and Cyril are so close that it's not much contest. Unfortunately the "good guys" are just as bad, only on the other end of the spectrum... But the bad writing annoyed me a lot too.

  • Unknown
    Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 12:52:00 PM CDT  

    Evo: I think all of your brain power is being used for politics right now.

    Paul: Thanks! And you picked up on exactly what I was trying to say. It was pretty obvious, wasn't it?

    Ridger: Yeah, I pretty much forgot about Marina before the end of the book, although I had the lingering thought about her disappearance.

  • Anonymous
    Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 3:28:00 PM CDT  

    I also was disappointed in the lack of character development in this book. Since it's a fascinating time and place to study, though, I'll have to read something more enlightening on the subject.


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