First time You witness a death in Storytelling

One of the hardest topics found in any kind of storytelling (Opera, Musical, Book, and Ballet) belongs to death. The hardest time to experience that element is the first viewing. Depending on the character, how it is portrayed, and genre. So, how do I feel when it comes to that first moment?

Genre

Well, there is pretty much one genre where you can get excited when a character dies. That only happens in mystery- now the fun really begins because you get to start being the detective.

In pretty much all the other genres, you can get excited, angry and saddened by death. The genre where death is usually found belong to tragedies- however they still can happen in happy series and books. This does happen at times- you may not get angry at the author.

Character- Spoilers

Who gets killed does affect your emotion. Usually if it is an actual villain, I get pretty excited. Also depending on the character, a death scene can be unmemorable.

There are the obvious characters you love- that is usually when I get angry at the author. There has been one exception to this. I recently finished Shades of Magic series. Holland, White London’s Antari, does act as a secondary antagonist- so in the first two books, I didn’t even like him. But when Conjuring of Light came around, I slowly started to like him. So guess what I didn’t want to happen- I wanted him to live. Well, when he died, I didn’t get angry at the author- that was because I understood the purpose and meaning behind it: it was ultimately him who destroyed Osaron.

This sounds crazy to say- there have been some stories where I originally found deaths unmemorable. Meaning, I nearly forgot they happened. Due to that, I thought ALL deaths be that way. However, Les Mis decided to prove me wrong.

Death Scene- Spoilers

Yes, how a death is seen can affect your emotion as well. Some death scenes can be pretty intense and some less intense- does that make sense. For example, Mufasa’s death in Lion King is one of the most intense ones.

What were other memorable death scenes? Les Mis- Fantine, Eponine, Enjolras, Gavroche, The Students, and Jean Valjean. Nicholas Nickleby- Smike. Etc………There is something in common between all of these: they are not alone. Most of them actually are tragic characters: usually that is expected if a character is tragic. There have been a few exceptions: Mufasa isn’t a tragic character, but does get killed.

So it is important for a death to be memorable or else you will forget they happened. In addition, that could lead to possibly not liking a book.

Les Misérables

I am going talk more in detail here about the Les Mis deaths. Before this musical, I really believed ALL deaths were unmemorable and literally thought they couldn’t happen through song. Songs like “Come to Me”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, and “Finale”- those are ALL death songs.

Prior to “Come to Me”, Fantine has been abandoned by her lover forcing her to leave her daughter in the hands of the abusive Thenardiers, got fired from her job, and eventually turned to prostitution. She really did believe a letter she got from the Thenardiers was true, but in reality a hoax. Fantine had better hopes that her child would have a better life. She almost got sent to prison, but Valjean intervened. During “Come to Me”, Fantine was still thinking about Cosette and was still worried about her daughter’s future. Valjean, out of compassion, promised Fantine he would raise Cosette. That act of kindness made Fantine die in peace and comfort.

Even Eponine lived a tragic life. She did appear to be loved as a child, but as she got older, everything became worse. She became the neglected, unloved, and lonely teenager. No one showed her kindness- there was only one person who did. Due to the kindness Marius showed, she fell in love with him. She was also living in extreme poverty- her love for Marius was unrequited. In the end, she gave her life for Marius, the only good thing in her life. “A Little Fall of Rain” is such a touching and moving scene- Marius may have been devastated, but so glad he decided to be with her. “A Little Fall of Rain” truly does show that Marius did care about Eponine and shows how much compassion he is capable of.

Look- Gavroche, Enjolras, and the Students (excluding Marius) died for what they truly believed in. Even when Enjolras told them to leave to not waste lives, the students kept their ground and stayed. Their relationship was that strong, which was truly shown in the intimate and heartbreaking “Drink With Me”.

As with Valjean- Cosette and Marius arrived in time. Valjean was with his adopted daughter and son-in-law by his side.

I think there is some symbolism found in the Les Mis deaths. The only character who died alone is Javert- he killed himself. Out of all the characters who died, he didn’t know how to show forgiveness, love, or mercy. The vast majority of characters were not alone.

Conclusion

Yes, it is true we can get excited, angry, and saddened by deaths. Yes, we may not get angry at the author- that usually happens when we can learn the meaning and purpose of them to happen. Saddened is usually more likely to happen- of course all deaths are heartbreaking. But when it comes to villains, I am not exactly saddened, but pretty excited. That is only because villains are likely to be extremely disliked unless the antagonist isn’t a villain. We have to get excited at a mystery’s death- if we don’t, the fun doesn’t truly begin.

Crazy how just one musical changed how I perceive deaths. It is easier to find a memorable death. It is easier to find a touching and movie death. I usually am an emotional wreck when a Les Mis death happens. But when it comes to books- I never am in tears, but still feel heartbroken.

My love for Charles Dickens

One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. My favorite book of his is “A Christmas Carol”. I was raised on the George C. Scott movie- that became a family tradition to watch the movie during the Holidays.

The vast majority of the classics I read are Charles Dickens. The ones below are David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Nicholas Nickleby, Tale of Two Cities and Bleak House. I read all of them, but two- Hard Times and Bleak House (which I recently started).

Both Dickens and Hugo are so similar in their writings, but so different: both of them were authors of Romanticism, focused on the lowest rungs of society (from orphans to the poor to prostitutes to convicts- as examples). In addition, they wrote off of things they actually witnessed allowing their books to feel well “real”.

Let me talk about the Charles Dickens books I love:

A Christmas Carol

Obviously, this is my favorite Dickens story. Part had to do with the story being connected to my childhood. Crazily enough, I found a parallel between Sarge and Scrooge: the funny thing about that is that one is a protagonist and the other an antagonist. Sarge is the antagonist of Tale of The Cattail Forest- who is a bully because of his abusive and tragic past.

What I love about Christmas Carol are the characters- from Scrooge to Tiny Tiny to the entire Cratchit family to Fred, etc. There are just so many to fall in love with. What I do love is that it ultimately shows the spirit of Christmas. It all started on Christmas Eve when Scrooge was visited by three spirits: Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Future Christmas. Through this, Scrooge learns why he became the way he is, the spirit of Christmas through the present ghost and what will happen if he doesn’t change his ways. There are just a lot of amazing things about this story.

Tale of Two Cities/Great Expectations/David Copperfield

I put these together because I could not figure out why I loved these books.

Tale of Two Cities

Tale of Two Cities takes place in London and Paris during the French Revolution. It is very easy to get mixed up with what city you are in. It even is difficult to figure out the plot. I almost feel as if I need to read this book again.

Great Expectations

As far as Great Expectations goes, I can say one reason why I loved it. I loved Pip, the protagonist. I really don’t know why: part might be because we are introduced to Pip as a child- and eventually as a young adult. I found lots of articles that say Pip is annoying, but in my eyes I don’t see him that way.

David Copperfield

David Copperfield is actually Charles’ Dickens favorite book he wrote. I don’t know why I loved this book.

As for as ALL three of these books go- sometimes you just know when you read a good book even if you don’t know why.

Oliver Twist

I first came across Oliver Twist by the musical. I first saw Oliver in Summer of 2007 at the Bartor Theater in Abingdon, VA. The annoying thing is that I have no memory of seeing it.

So, I eventually decided to read the book. I literally was grabbed by three pages. Oliver is such an incredible protagonist- he is so good and sweet that no one has the capability to corrupt him. You strongly saw that happen when Fagin and Bill Sikes were trying to turn him into a pickpocket. At first I didn’t know what to think of Nancy, but loved her at the end of her story- I fell in love with this character even more once I finally watched the musical movie. Weird how just an incredible book can start with a few words: “Please Sir, I Want some More”. All it took was for Oliver to say those few words that lead into such an incredible plot.

Nicholas Nickleby

Now, this is a book I strongly can say why I loved it. For one thing, you have an incredible protagonist: he is extremely compassionate and does have his flaws. Like usual the best characters tend to be flawed: Nicholas does have a temper- you mostly saw this unfold when he was trying to defend someone from being hurt. His relationship to Smike is incredible- Smike, despite being mistreated and abused, has a strong spirit. The moment Nicholas leaves the school, Smike literally follows. Smike asks Nicholas something around the lines of “wherever you go, I will”. From that moment on, you see this incredible friendship form: such an intimate and special bond. Nicholas is always with Smike- no matter what.

Originally I did not know what to think of Kate Nickleby. However, when I saw the RSC do a 9hr production of the story, I learned to like her. Don’t worry: I wasn’t watching the stage show for 9hrs in a row. It is split into four movies- so I watched one a day.

Along with Kate, there are a number of good guys- just right now, can’t think of the names.

There are a LOT of villains in this book: Ralph Nickleby, Squeers- and so on. For whatever reason, Ralph is always hating his nephew. For what- nothing made sense. I really loved Nicholas so why would his uncle hate him?

Bleak House

This is the main exception to those I love. Bleak House is the Dickens book I recently started. So, I have not formed an opinion on the story yet. I actually was surprised to learn that this story is more well-known than it appears. Bleak House centers on Esther. One of things I love about this book is the list of characters I saw in the front of the book. I already discovered that this book has two narrators: Esther and an unknown narrator. So far, the plot hasn’t exactly kicked off.

Character Names

Well, why do I mention this? Well, Charles Dickens really knows how to create amazing names of characters. From Oliver Twist to Artful Dodger to Nancy to Fagin to Bill Sikes to Smike to Nicholas Nickleby to Kate Nickleby to Scrooge to Tiny Tim to Esther to Ada to Pip to David Copperfield- that list continues. There is just something about the character names that make you remember them- including who they are.

Favorite Genres in Books

Reading is incredible. It, like the musical theatre world, is an escape. It takes you the world of characters and tells a story. I thought I loved mystery, classics, and fantasy exactly- but last week I realized something- only two of those stood out. They are the ones I read the most. I realized those genres are classics and fantasy.

Classics:

  • Yes, I am a millennial who loves classics. It is hard to describe why I love classics. A Christmas Carol, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Don Quixote, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Les Misérables are classics I do love. Some of my favorite classics fall in the category of fantasy/mythology, which are the Illiad and Odyssey- fell in love with them in high school. I fell in love with A Christmas Carol before college as well. In particular, I am drawn to Romanticism- the style Dickens and Hugo write in. When I think of classics, I think of books that are at least 100 years old.

Fantasy:

  • I love the made-up worlds of Fantasy- Narnia, Middle Earth, Hogwarts, etc…. are some of the main reasons why I love fantasy. The worlds do not always need to be as expansive- think about My Cattail Forest- it isn’t that big as opposed to Narnia. You have wizards, witches, elves, hobbits, and other made-up creatures/beasts such my Fairy Frogs. Even humans are part of fantasy as well. That is one of the fun sides of them. Their are these quests/journeys that they go on. Fantasy does include Fairy Tales as well. There is not as much reality in Fantasy as other types of genres- that is the fun of them. Fantasy requires a lot of imagination- for a lot of it. I fell in love with fantasy in elementary school. I love fantasy series and books such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia, and Uprooted.

Some of my favorite Literary friendships

I did talk about about my favorite musical theatre friendships before, but I think it is time to talk about some of my favorite literary friendships.

Friends of the ABC:

  • This is an overlap between literary and musical theatre friendship. This friendship is in both. This friendship is found in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. Enjolras is the leader of this group. They not only are friends, but they are like brothers. They are passionate about the cause that they fight to the end. What I love about the book is that you get to know them individually unlike the musical where you get to know them together as a group. It is their passion and their friendship that I love about them.

Nicholas and Smike

  • These two characters are my favorite characters in Nicholas Nickleby. I love the compassion Nicholas shows to Smike. When Nicholas leaves that school, Smike follows and Nicholas allows Smike to stay with him throughout the rest of the book.

Frodo and Sam

  • Would Frodo have made it without Sam? It is Sam’s loyalty to Frodo that makes me love the two of them. At end of Fellowship, Frodo was going to do the rest of the quest alone, but Sam would not allow it. Sam was going to staying with Frodo. That first question is the biggest reason why I love the two of them as friends- Frodo never would made it without Sam.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione

  • This trio is one of my favorite things about the Harry Potter series. It is one of the biggest reasons why I love the series. Just like with Sam, would Harry have defeated Voldemort without his two best friends? He relied on the two of them as the books went by. All three of them went through some trials and tribulations as the books went by. Harry wanted to do some of these things alone like Frodo, but his two best friends would not allow it either. Harry and Ron quickly became friends, but it took a while until they befriended Hermione- they finally became friends with her at the troll incident- that trial was going through the trap door. Each book- they had to go through some trial- it seems- which used some rule-breaking.

What are some your favorite literary friendships?

Royal Shakespeare Company- Nicholas Nickleby

As people know, over the summer, I read the book, Nicholas Nickleby. One year, the Royal Shakespeare Company put together a 9 hour play of the book, which was filmed and consists of 4 disks. I have been watching that production. How were they going to put together a 900 page or so book into 9 hours. That seemed daunting. Nicholas Nickleby is a book I love.

It is a story of Nicholas Nickleby and trying to provide for his family after his father died- they had to rely on his cold-hearted uncle, Ralph Nickleby. He has a younger sister, Kate, who also suffers at hands of his uncle. Lots of conflict happens in the book. You meet many other characters like Smike, a mistreated and frail boy, that Nicholas befriends. Mr. Squeers, Madeline Bray, and Mr. Crummles are among the many other character you meet in Nicholas Nickleby.

I loved seeing how they put together this adaptation. Seeing this story on stage is way different than reading it. It made me have a bigger distaste towards Ralph now that I saw his actions performed on stage instead of reading about them- this story is filled of characters that are bad. Mr. Squeers is one of the worst- he runs a school for unwanted boys, and is abusive towards them, and that is where Nicholas meets Smike. The actors who played Ralph and Mr. Squeers are why I learned to have a bigger distaste for both of them especially for Mr. Squeers.

I love the goodness and compassion Nicholas has. He has a desire to stay loyal towards his family and to protect them. He is not without his flaws- he has a temper, but sometimes he loses it when he defends someone from being beaten or when someone says something disrespectful about his sister. He allows Smike, the boy he feels a deep compassion for, to go the journey with him- the two of them form an intimate and special bond.

The special thing about Smike is despite all of the mistreatment and abuse he faced, he has this incredible spirit. These two happen to be my top two favorite characters. The actor who played Nicholas showed the goodness, the protective quality, the impulsiveness, the emotions, and the compassion that Nicholas has. These characteristics make Nicholas a believable character.

I learned to love Kate Nickleby a bit more in this version. In the book, it is very hard to keep track of all the characters since there are just so many. In the play due to actually seeing them, you get to know them better. She, like Nicholas, has compassion for others. They both get thrown into conflict all because of their uncle.

The play has actors narrate actions as the story continues. After they narrate, it goes back to the action. This helps due to how long the book is, which sits at around 900 pages. Since it so long, at the beginning of acts, the actors narrate what has happened so far in the play so that way the audience has a recap of what has happened. This version is worth watching- yes, 9 hrs, but I watched one disc a day. Nicholas Nickleby has all the elements of Romanticism- characters with flaws and characters being driven by emotions. Romanticism celebrates imperfectionsim and the emotion- love, sad, heartbreak, anger are just four of the emotions found in Nicholas Nickleby.

What was fascinating is that some of the creatives behind this are the same people who brought the original production of Les Mis. Les Mis started with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Nicholas Nickleby was originally directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird- the same two directors who brought Les Mis. The stage design for Nicholas Nickleby was by John Naiper, and he designed the original Les Mis.