Books give us an opportunity to get to know characters better than we may know the people in our real lives. In a first person narrative, putting credibility aside, we get to hear a character’s full story in her voice; in a third person narrative, we’re often omniscient voyeurs, privy to the inner workings of every character in that make-believe universe. We never get to know the people in our real lives quite that well (not that we would want to!), and once we do forge a close bond with others, it takes effort to keep friendships intact. The wonders of the internet and social media can’t always overcome the damage caused by time-draining adult responsibilities and geographical distance.
December is the month during which many of us make an attempt to reconnect with others by giving people who once knew us better a peek at our lives through holiday cards with pictures of our kids crying on Santa’s lap. Otherwise, there’s Facebook, a good way to stay lightly in touch with people. A few months ago, the New York Times published an article on how it’s harder to maintain close personal relationships in your 30s, which certainly isn’t true for everyone, but has turned out to be the case for me. I am focused on my loving family and fulfilling career, but sadly, there is little time to maintain, renew, and develop friendships.
It’s hard to fit in time to read, too, but when I do, I get to “meet” new fictional people entangled in compelling situations. Sometimes I don’t connect with the characters and would have no interest in grabbing a cup of tea with them.
Then there are others that I wish I knew better, beyond the bounds of the book, and Jae from Lit and Scribbles has given me the opportunity to think more about which characters from fantasy worlds (which I have interpreted to be any fictional world) I would want to spend time with.
When first presented with this creative exercise, I thought immediately of two fictional friends I met in my late childhood and early teens, back when I made B.F.F’s more easily: Anne of Green Gables and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.
- Anne of Green Gables: In L.M. Montgomery’s century-old children’s series, we watched red-haired, freckled Anne grow up. I was around her age when I read the first book, and I thought we would be kindred spirits engaged in (usually) friendly competition in the classroom; yeah, I was that annoying kid. Anne is smart, independent, sensitive, and caring, all qualities I admire in my friends. I would be curious to know what the adult Anne would think about today’s world, and I would be interested in inviting young Anne for a playdate with my own pair of redheads (and one brunette). While Anne notes in the books that red hair was becoming fashionable in her time, I imagine she would be rather shocked by just how fashionable it is in North America right now.
- Elizabeth Bennet: Obviously, I am a Jane Austen fan; even the title for this blog comes from an Austen novel (Northanger Abbey). It’s remarkable that Austen’s novels have maintained their appeal for over two centuries, thanks in large part, in my humble opinion, to her relatable characters. Elizabeth is intelligent, and, for her time, independent, refusing to rush into an economically advantageous marriage to someone she believes is wrong for her. I’m sure many people would want to hang out with Elizabeth, as the numerous spinoffs suggest. My favorite parody is a skit on That Mitchell and Webb Look (warning if you’re watching this around kids or at work—not that any of us would do that!—there is some strong language in it).
The next two choices entered my life when I was either in my late teens or already an adult with children of my own.
- Hermione Granger: This strong young woman from the Harry Potter books is the type of person I would have wanted in my law school study group. I admire her intelligence, bravery, adherence to principle, cooperative nature, and fierce loyalty. She’s bookish, too, a quality I like to see in my friends.
- Aervyn: This four-year-old boy wonder-witch from Debora Geary’s Modern Witch Series reminded me of my own children, who were four at the time I read the series. He’s adorable and, if his mother or uncle came along to help out (you know, to keep his magic in check), he would be more than welcome to join us for a playdate. I would particularly appreciate it if his mother would bring cookies. I hear she’s a fabulous baker.
Finally, rather than choosing another book character, I want to end with characters from TV, a medium that gives us only 22-23 minute increments of time with our “friends,” excluding commercials, leaving a lot to the imagination in terms of understanding what they would be like at a dinner party.
- Any of the Golden Girls: I started watching re-runs of the Golden Girls when I was in college because it played on one of the three channels on my TV. It was a surprisingly funny show featuring older women who develop strong friendships with each other. It’s fiction, I know, but it gives me hope that whatever is making it so difficult to maintain friendships now won’t necessarily be an impediment in my “golden years.”
I can also think of five people (more than five, really) in my real life that I would like to hang out with sooner rather than later. That would be a good New Year’s Resolution.
How about you? What five characters from fictional universes would you like to hang out with? Be sure to check out Jae’s post, too: My Fantasy Circle of Five.