Friday, April 29, 2016
Charlotte Bronte & Darth Vader
Warning: This post contains spoilers on Charlotte Bronte's novel Shirley. Continue reading at your own risk!
In Charlotte Bronte's novel Shirley, Caroline Helstone lays on her deathbed. Although the doctors cannot give a reason why she is dying, Caroline is fading away. So Mrs Pryor, Shirley's friend and former governess, jolts Caroline with emotional shock treatment: she tells her that she is her mother.
For all you Star Wars fans out there, this moment reminds me of Darth Vader telling Luke Skywalker: "I am your father."
Like Darth Vader, Mrs Pryor is masking her former identity. Like Darth Vader, she has done terrible things. She abandoned her daughter as a child, and she stayed away, day after day, year after year, until she could assess Caroline's character. Only when she decided that she liked who Caroline was, and that she had turned out all right despite her abandonment, and only when it seemed obvious that Caroline would die if she didn't tell her, did she reveal her former identity, her secret, and her terrible crimes.
Caroline may have turned out all right, but like Luke Skywalker, she was raised by an uncle who treated her callously. No warmth existed between them all. Her only hope for happiness lay in marriage. But when Robert Moore loses interest in her, she loses interest in life. Thus, when she grows sick, she lacks a reason to live, and drifts off toward death.
True, Mrs Pryor didn't kill anyone. True, Mrs Pryor left Caroline in the care of a responsible family member. But does this let her off the hook for her abandoning her child? Caroline grew up with a terrible absence inside her. She lived for two decades feeling alone and unloved. Isn't Mrs Pryor responsible for that? Isn't that, really, a terrible crime?
Most of us will never physically abandon a child. But is it okay to absent yourself from a friend or relative's life because you've got issues? Because you've suffered? Does that let you off the hook for not doing everything you could to make a family member feel important to you? That regardless of what you feel about their character or actions, that he or she really, really matters to you?
Abandonment is easy. Devoting yourself to so-called good works is easy. Making friends with people you readily identify with, and spending all your free time with them, is easy. What's hard is...
Really, no matter how old we get, we're all still children inside.
"Caroline, you don't know the power of the Dark Side!"