Just yesterday, we talked about mascots and our favourite protagonists. The latter was the prompt that Bel gave to Tessa, though she then modified it.
Her slightly modified prompt was “Share characters that tell us something about you!”
But I don’t think that this prompt is too different from my previous choices. At first, I wanted to go for the unmodified prompt by Bel and then post a follow-up later on the prompt by Tessa since my taste in books is usually somewhat depressing. I love tragedies and horror stories and some other plays and anthologies. Hence if I were to talk about book characters that “tell something about me”, I’d end up not really knowing who to talk about.
One of the characters that I could mention would be Eeyore, the donkey from A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh”. Now, I love this book to bits. It’s one of the less gloomy books I own, probably since it’s written for children… but at the same time, all the characters have mental health issues and some of the stories are really philosophical and… it’s way too much fun to talk about some of the stuff in there while, uh… high.
Eeyore, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a rather melancholic and pessimistic donkey – and I always kind of liked him. I often get listless and don’t want to move or be productive or leave the house and when I have those pessimistic, lazy, and depressed phases, I identify quite heavily with Eeyore, I guess.
Franz Kafka’s “Die Verwandlung” strikes a similar note with a character called “Gregor Samsa” who suddenly turned into a giant bug. He has become listless and can’t control himself. He’s treated as a monster by his family members and employers while still being expected to work like a proper human being…
Another character that I really like that may tell something about me would be Ernest/Jack (haha…) from Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest”. It’s one of my favourite comedies and honestly, a very well-written socio-critical play. Jack is the legal guardian of Cecily but doesn’t really want to take care of her so he made up this persona of a younger, adventurous, and troublesome brother called Ernest who lives in London. Hence, he often travels there to take care of him when he’s in jail or needs help in other regards. Once he’s in London, he then pretends to be Ernest himself, living a lazy life with his friend, Algernon. There is also a lot of other stuff happening and a lot of Bunburyism going on, making the story somewhat ridiculous and confusing at the same time while also rather funny and amusing but that’s not the point of this post.
Jack aka Ernest is essentially playing two roles here. While in London, he’s lazy and playful, adventurous and always up to no good. While he’s in the country, he’s got to take care of Cecily and other duties. I kind of see myself in there with not being able to be “me” when I want to be “me”. Wherever I go, certain expectations of me aren’t necessarily in line with what I stand for or what I think.
And then there’s also the issue of my mere identity, I guess. Having a migration background, I always was “the foreigner” in my hometown. Having been born and raised in Germany, however, I’m also “the foreigner” when visiting my distant relatives. In both of these sides of the world, I’m expected to behave certain ways and when I don’t do that, people tend to get disappointed.
My distant relatives think of Germans – and ultimately of me – as people that are very rich and generous while also polite, strict and boring. If I don’t pay for their meals or whatever, I’m “just like the Germans” – who of course are also cheapskates. If I want people to call before coming to visit, I’m “just like the Germans”. When I don’t want to go out every day, I get told to “not be like the Germans”.
And in my hometown, some of the people that I talked to every day had some issues as well where they would talk of “foreigners” like me as barbaric and lazy people that steal their jobs, earn more than them, and who never work. They also never learn the language, are very bad at school and don’t put any effort into anything they do. When they noticed that I was good at school, worked my ass off and that I was better at German than most Germans, they called me “the exception”, which is not better at all. Suddenly, I was not German but also not one “of my own people”. When stuff didn’t go as planned with me, I was “just like the others”. When it was of use for them, I’d get picked by teachers as “a great example for successful integration” even when the same teachers would scream at me in their office for “not integrating myself” whenever I got bullied by others and whenever they started fights.
Value-wise, I’d also stand on two horses with being quite liberal and open and accepting of anyone while my parents and my distant relatives aren’t accepting of gay people or share other values like that. Racism is a thing all over the world – and even if it’s understandable to hold a grudge against your “enemy” that killed so many of your family members, I never was a fan of hating Serbian people for what some of them did 21 years ago. Showing weakness and emotions as a man is considered stupid and gay and whatever. Equality is not that advanced either. I hate it.
The fact that I’m in love with someone who’s not Albanian, is very controversial. That’s also one of the many reasons why I don’t really have too much contact with a lot of my relatives. My older cousin who used to be really close to me turned into a garbage human being who’s greedy, horny and just toxic. Similarly, an uncle of mine is always being childish while oozing with toxic masculinity. I just can’t stand it.
Alas, Ernest Jack from the Importance of Being Ernest is potentially the most fitting character to tell something about me. He’s playing different roles, just like I have to pretend that I like my distant relatives and just like I behave differently in different circles. Jack moves to London to escape this dreary existence in the country to live his life in London. On the same note, I moved away from that 6k population town to this 350k city since I don’t want to be that person that everyone knows for science fairs and plays and whatever. I don’t want to be the exception to the rule and I don’t want to be within the rule at all. I don’t want to be a foreigner in my own country and I don’t want to be one of the racists that call themselves “proud” or “worried” members of society. In the city that I live in, I’m a nobody. Nobody cares about where I’m from, usually, and it doesn’t matter what my migration background is. In the end, I’m one in 350k.
I’m a nobody. I like that. It’s my escape, I guess.
And if we move on to video game characters, you can see that a lot of my favourite protagonists from games are actually more of the opposite of me. Athena and Alloy and 2B are brave and strong and strong-willed, for instance. With video games as a medium to “escape reality”, I feel like it’s somewhat important for characters to be different from us “normies”. There have to be characters that are more extreme than us so that we can not identify us with them but rather live this power fantasy or be someone who we are not. I’m anxious and worried and have way too many fears, so I enjoy playing these tough, brave, strong characters in games, just as much as I enjoy playing “real” characters that are empathic and soft and weak.
Zagreus from Supergiant Games’ “Hades” is quite similar to me in the sense that he has to leave home to find himself and his destiny. I had to move out/away to be able to live my life properly and actually find what I’m cut out for. So, I kind of identify with that.
In the end, I feel like most of the book characters that I’d like to mention aren’t good options for this prompt as they don’t tell anything about me. The narrator from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour from Outer Space” for instance is a character that I really like… Max Frisch’s “Andorra” has a character called the “Jemand” (Engl. the “Someone”) who is specifically named as “a person” and not just “someone” and who is looking at situations from the back row but not really getting involved in them. That character has nothing to do with me at all and I just like some of his witty remarks. I love Patrick Süßkind’s “Das Parfüm”, though, the characters in there are just ugly and don’t say much about me either. There is also a poem in Milk ‘n Honey that I really enjoyed and that I can identify with to a degree but I have entrusted my copy of that book to someone and didn’t receive it back, yet.
I mostly read books and poems and plays that depict dystopian times or tragedies. I love the setting of overly negative, pessimistic or tragic worlds with characters that go through a lot only to die at the end. Lovecraft, if you look past all the racism, has a lot of stories like that, so I really am enjoying those.
Luckily, I was able to still write about something after all. Hope you enjoyed this post. You can find my original post on the prompt over here. Tessa’s post can be found here. The next post in line would be Paeroka’s, so check theirs out.
This post is part of the Blaugust 2020 event. Wanna know more about it? Then check out my post on it or Bel’s post where he also linked everyone who’s participating! Be sure to check out the others as well!
I feel you on the subject of not fitting in with both sides of the group. People don’t see me as Dutch and I’ll never be truly Indonesian either. Both groups treat me as an outsider. I haven’t read the book yet, but I might now, so thank you for sharing it.
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“The Importance of Being Ernest” is really nothing like that though. It’s a comedy and while socio-critical, it essentially is critisizing morals and values as well as other things in the Victorian Age. I guess I just read too much into some of the characters… but I can highly recommend it.