Picking up where my last post left off, we once again begin with the idea that the task of distancing oneself from a protagonist can be perilous for a writer. I say once again that I am neither of my novels’ protagonists. At times the fact that I just must be one of the characters I wrote is almost insulting. How else could they have become so real, readers ask? Well…. because I am actually pretty OK at this stuff, you know?
Similarly: The heroine of my first novel, Enso, is a Japanese ballerina named Maruko. The top question I always get is whether this character is actually my wife. (No, she isn’t, I say with a smile.) Does your wife know about the other woman then? is usually Question #2. (A shorter ‘no’ is often that follow-up refrain.) Why is it that a writer must write about the person he loves to write a character worth loving? Are all my villains the people who I would wish to fight? Well….. here’s where it gets murky.
See, I’m not my protagonists, we’ve made that clear. But the heroes we as writers construct are often built of the foes we find facing us in the mirror. The greatness I define in others is often that which I find lacking within myself. That certainly is why certain characteristics draw the attention of my pen and beg for my exploration.
Keeping this in mind with regards to Onegin, we ask the following: Did Pushkin write things into Eugene because they were areas he himself was deficient in? As discussed previously, this seems somehow unlikely. However, what if Eugene is not the hero (read: the heroic one) in Onegin?
Was Lensky the more idealistic self? Was this romantic idealist somehow attractive to Pushkin. Was this not why slaying him hurt, but also why he had to die? If Lensky was the ideal, and if these ideals led to his fall, how different is that really to what happened to Eugene? Onegin, trapped within walls built upon his own flimsy standards is himself destined to fall, even if not mortally, as a result of the laws he sees only too late were in need of mending.
The tragedy in this particular theory is that the topic for this week’s posts – I’m Not He – becomes positively haunting when we consider Pushkin slaying (with words) the ideals he saw as weak scant years before his own resemblance to Lensky would lead the author to fatally look down a barrel he himself had ordered raised.
Perhaps one day, we’ll never know, Pushkin rose to look in the mirror and saw his own resemblance to Lensky. Perhaps it was this day when he wrote this weaker man into the grave. I’m Not He. Pushkin must have whispered as he slayed this fragile idealist. That Pushkin’s failure to extinguish the Lensky in himself robbed the world of one of its greatest scribes is something we continue to lament to this day.