We were talking about living vicariously through a fictional character’s struggle and transformation. I was suggesting that this is exactly why we fork over the price of admission to see a film or buy a book.
In ROXY (Tradewind Books, 2009), the 17 year old protagonist confronts her demons in the land of Zorba – Greece. Roxy’s special boogeyman is a perceived curse. She believes that she’s next in a succession of women in her family to be denied the love of a family. The culprit is her estranged grandfather. This belief must die, or there’s no story worth telling.
We sense very quickly – once Roxy arrives on the island of Corfu – that she is onto something that will alter the past. This is what we’ve paid for – the opportunity to anticipate correctly the sea change she’ll go through. It’s obvious from the first time she meets her grandfather in Greece that she yearns for ‘family’. We also know that Roxy’s worldview is largely based upon her reverence for her long-dead grandmother. And that it would be a huge mistake for anyone to denigrate her memory. Fast-forward to the climax.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the ending; it’s not necessary to do so. Let’s just say that if I were directing “Roxy”, the movie, I’d deploy the slow zoom (see previous post regarding Moonstruck) into Roxy’s face as the truth dawns upon her. Her heart’s most precious touchstone may be a big lie.
As Roxy mentally assembles the horrific evidence – reluctantly, disastrously – her worldview is going to have to be radically altered. We watch her expression as the truth usurps her former beliefs. The grisly truth is struggling to reboot her rewired organizm. For a moment during this psychic ‘changing of the guard’ there is chaos and confusion. The implications run too deep for any mortal to accept all at once. Plenty of story follows, therefore, more crises and tears, since time is needed for the truth to take its rightful place in the true history of Roxy’s life.
Earlier, I used the phrase ‘sea change’ to refer to the outcome of Roxy’s ordeal. The dictionary defines it as ‘a radical or even mystical change’. ‘Sea change’, it turns out, comes from Shakespeare’s Tempest, generally considered to be set on the island of Corfu. The impish Ariel sings:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.
Shakespeare might be suggesting that in ‘depth’ lies the power of personal transformation. Bones turned to coral, eyes to pearls. At the climax – the deepest part of the story – a good character will take the plunge, even risk death, if there’s no other way to emerge ‘rich and strange’.