Monday, November 25, 2013

A Lady of Distinction

A LADY OF DISTINCTION There are some fictional characters who have become so famous in their own rights that they step from the pages of their books and become part of our cultural lexicon. I remember reading a comment made by Harlan Ellison once that Sherlock Holmes and Super Man should be added to Jungian archtypes, because they have become part of our universal consciousness. There are other characters who, though not so universally known, are so well known by those who read the series in which they predominate, that they are often thought of, and are spoken of, not as characters but in the same ways we speak of friends or acquaintances. This is especially true among fans of a particular series, but a few are even more well known than the series in which they were created. It is one of these I’d like to talk about, for a while. David Weber created an excellent SF series, revolving around the life and career of Dame Honor Harrington, and it is she who I’d like to discuss for a bit. I became acquainted with her series some years ago, and I’m allowing myself the self indulgence of re-reading this group of excellent books, which begin with “on Basilisk Station”. The books are well worth reading, and, perhaps when I’ve finished all of them, I’ll discuss them. However, Dame Honor is so well developed that she has, at least for me, acquired many aspects of individuality that make hre feel “real” to me, at least mentally and emotionally, even though I am well aware that she is a figment of the vivid imagination of an extremely skillful author. Yes, I like and admire Honor. She’s the kind of person who I’d love to be able to invite to my home for dinner and an evening of conversation, and she has character traits that I value and admire. In fact, if she existed off the page, she’s the kind of person whose friendship I’d highly value. She is intelligent, decisive, observant, can think logically, and is deeply compassionate. She will perform her duty, always, and she knows, and willingly pays, the price that sometimes involves. For a military commander, that price is measured not only by the lives of her enemies, but by the lives lost of her crew, and sometimes of her friends. She isn’t unbelieveably brave or “perfect”, and therein lies her deep humanity. Sometimes, she questions herself, and her right to do what she does, in the most basic of moral and ethical terms. Sometimes, she’s scared nearly to death, fears that she’s made the wrong decisions, and she knows that, in battle, especially in space, the most hostile of environments, mistakes lead to absolute distruction. Yet, for all that, she forces her way through, does the absolute best she can, and accepts the results … and to my mind, *that* is one of the ultimate tests of an individuals’s strength. Yet, she does not lack humor, nor does she force herself not to care about the people around her. She can laugh, even at herself, and her friends probably outnumber her admirers (and there are many of those). In short, Dame Honor Harrington is such a beautifully created character that the books about her become, unintendedly, (and that is how it must be to work) the backgrounds against which she is painted.

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