Author Archives: Julia Michels

Charlie Bucket is a hero merely by default.  In the grand scheme of fairy tales and fantasy, he is not a true fairy tale hero.  The only reason he is a hero in this novel, is because he is simply the least horrible of all the other children.  Charlie is a very passive character, and encounters most of his fortune by luck alone.  It is sheer luck that allows Charlie to find the dollar bill in the town.  In any case, a true hero would not have indulged him or herself on chocolate with the dollar, but instead would have spent it on food for their family.  Charlie though, in a moment of normal, human weakness, chooses to buy chocolate, and is lucky enough to find the fifth golden ticket in his second purchase.  While it is true that Charlie is for the most part not greedy, selfish, and spoiled, and has very few if any bad traits, he doesn’t really act on his good traits.  For example, when Augustus got sucked into the chocolate river pipe, a true fairy tale hero would have made some attempt to save him despite his negative character.  Yet Charlie stood by passively, commenting that Augustus really “has stuck” (74).  He has similar reactions to all of the other children’s misfortunes.  While there is nothing particularly wrong about Charlie’s inaction, it is not heroic, for a hero would have gone into action.

In truth, Charlie’s good traits are set upon a heroic pedestal merely because all of the other children are spoiled and horrendously ill mannered, and Charlie is not.  By comparison to the others, Charlie seems like an angel, when truthfully he is simply not bad rather than truly good.  In fact, he was really lucky that those four children were the other ones to receive the golden tickets, for he may have had a tougher challenge if different, truly good children had won the tickets.  Rather than win the competition, Charlie just does not lose.  All the other children lost, and so Charlie “was the only one left,” and won by default of being the only candidate (142).  In the end, it is luck that again wins out for Charlie.  By not losing, he has gained an incredibly successful factory, which will sustain his family and provide him with a job, and never-ending chocolate.  All this because Willy Wonka was “giving it to him” (151).  Charlie never had to earn the factory; it was just given to him.  A true hero would have had to work hard and pass some difficult test to gain such a reward, while Charlie only did not lose.

The Unprincipled Heroine

Lyra is quickly defined as the hero of this novel simply because of her status as the protagonist.  This is further established when the Master mentions mysteriously that “Lyra has a part to play in all this,” suggesting that despite or youth and current ignorance, she will be important in future events (28).  Her heroics quickly become clear when she risks harsh punishment to save Lord Asriel’s from the poison, revealing herself to him, and resulting in some injury.   She is obviously brave, and willing to risk herself to help others, clear traits of a hero.  She is also, intelligent, highly inquisitive, and a natural leader of other children.  This allows her to not only lead but to search for answers and truth, often successfully.  On the other hand, Lyra is rambunctious and somewhat of a miscreant, often getting into fights and breaking rules.  Despite it being against the rules, Lyra has “been all over the roof” to play (35).  She is a gifted liar, even later gaining the name Silvertongue for her successful lying.  She is not the incredibly well-mannered, clean, and ladylike girl she is expected to be, instead choosing to rebel and play with servants and their children, running wild through the college and the town.

 

In same ways, particularly in her more positive qualities, Lyra is the perfect heroine.  Traditionally, heroes and heroines are expected to be young, brave, intelligent, self-sacrificing, and truth-searching.  Lyra has all of these strengths, and so at first seems the perfect traditional heroine.  Even some of her rebellious side can be considered traditional.  After all, most heroes are rebelling against some evil higher power.  Yet Lyra takes her rebellion to a new level, particularly as a female character.  She is certainly not supposed to be running around in dirty trousers, getting into fights with poor town children, yet she does just that, defying many levels of expectation.  She also seems to possess as small bit of cruelty, or rather apathy, a trait not expected in a hero or heroine.  This is evidenced when she explains that she “was going to kill and roast” a hurt creature, and only chose to help it get better when a friend insisted (34).  In the end, Lyra simply does not fit the expected passive female heroine.  She is incredibly active, and improper, instead becoming a new kind of reckless heroine.

Blame Not the Insane

Gollum

Although he is clearly a villain, the character of Gollum is one of the most pitiful and sympathetic villains ever to grace the pages of novels.  This is especially true from the point of view of Bilbo Baggins, one of the few characters to face off against Gollum directly.  When compared to the other villains in The Hobbit, this becomes even more obvious.  Bilbo first encounters the trolls.  There are only three of them, but the fact that they are “very large persons” gives them a large advantage over all the dwarves and of course the very small Bilbo (39).  The goblins, on the other hand, have the advantage by sheer strength in numbers.  They “were six to each dwarf,” giving Bilbo and his comrades no chance of escape or victory (67).  Meanwhile, Gollum is actually at a disadvantage, it is “not a fair fight” to him, for it is one on one, and Bilbo has a sword and the ring at his disposal, while Gollum’s only weapons are his own hands and feet (96).  Then we come to each villain’s immediate reactions to Bilbo and the dwarves.  Upon capturing Bilbo, the trolls immediately want to know if you can “cook ‘em” (41).  The goblins treat their prisoners cruelly, they “were very rough,” and “took out whips and whipped” Bilbo and the dwarves, and also presented no plans other than to eat their prisoners (67,68).  Gollum is quite different.  Though it is clear to the reader that he plans to consume Bilbo, that fact is quite unclear to the hobbit himself, as Gollum “was anxious to appear friendly,” and starts off by playing a riddle game, providing Bilbo an opportunity for escape (81).  Also,  “Gollum had not actually threatened to kill” Bilbo (96).

Then of course comes the executions of the plans of the villains.  The trolls make for poor villains, as they have “a gorgeous row” among themselves and waste a lot of time “arguing” how to cook their victims (42, 45). They are clearly stupid, and cause their own doom when easily tricked by Gandalf.  The goblins are much more clever than the trolls, but in the end, their downfall is caused by a simple fear of two weapons.  Gollum is also rather clever, coming up with riddles and being able to answer Bilbo’s riddles.  In fact he is never truly tricked by Bilbo, though he does have some mistaken ideas.  Something else leading to Gollum’s haplessness is his clear insanity.  He calls himself “my precioussss,” and even has “an argument with himself” (80, 93). Finally, Gollum is just a sad creature who brings Bilbo’s “heart to his mouth” (96).  Gollum “was miserable, alone, lost,” which gained him “a sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror . . . in Bilbo’s heart” (96).  In the end it is Gollum’s intense sadness mixed with insanity that garners him much pity in both Bilbo and the readers’ eyes.  It is difficult to blame such a pitiful creature for his actions.

Your Inner Beauty Still Needs Makeup

      At first glimpse, Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast” is clearly about the importance of inner beauty rather than outer.  But if you read carefully, you can see that this is not true.  We can almost look at the story as if there are two perspectives controlling it, that of the narrator, and that of Beauty.  If we look from Beauty’s thoughts and actions, we can see that she comes to understand the significance of inner beauty over superficial.  This first comes into play when she tells Beast that “There are certainly men more monstrous than” him, “who hide false, corrupt, and ungrateful hearts behind charming manners” (Beaumont, 38).  Throughout the story she comes to love Beast despite his visual shortcomings.  She realizes that “He is kind,” and wonders “why [she hasn’t] wanted to marry him” (Beaumont, 40).  In response to this thought, Beauty proceeds to accept his offer of marriage, and the two live happily ever after.

The narrator behind the story still at least puts up a pretext of agreeing with the claim that inner beauty is more valuable than outer beauty. An example of this is with the husband of one of Beauty’s sisters, who is famed to be “a remarkably handsome gentleman , but . . . spent all day in front of the mirror” (Beaumont, 40).  Here it is clear that beauty is not everything, but this example unfortunately proves to be one of the few successes in that moral of the story.  Despite, the outwardly kind opinions, the narrator still takes the time in pointing out the ugliness of the Beast.  The narrator slips too when comparing Beauty to her sisters.  While her superior virtue is pushed to the forefront, it comes across much more forcefully than the idea that she was “more beautiful than her sisters” (Beaumont, 32).  It almost appears that Beauty’s virtues came only with her superficial beauty.  The most poignant proof that the narrator is backing superficial beauty lies at the end of the story.  When Beauty announces her decision to marry Beast, he immediately turns into “a young prince more beautiful than the day was bright;” Beauty’s ultimate reward for her inner beauty is the outer beauty of her future husband.  All this evidence comes across as contradictory.  Perhaps the author intended to promote the values of inner beauty, but the constraints of society caused her to unwittingly include outer beauty, which is much more forceful than the intended moral.