Capturing the Complexity of my Characters

My first sweep through The Reader was a bit hurried; I was quite excited, as one might imagine. Here I was, holding a electronic gizmo from the future, reading about exploits the likes of which I’ve never encountered in fiction. The problem was, I read these accounts as if they were just exciting fiction, and that first pass missed something that I’m picking up on now. Just as in real life, there are few good guys and bad guys in Molly’s story. Most everyone falls somewhere in-between.

That’s not to say that some people are more despicable than others, or that some don’t stand above the rest by comparison. It’s just that I have a hard time vilifying some of these people when they make poor ethical decisions. As a future historian, I’m learning to fight my bias in order to create a most-accurate account of events. Doing so is making me re-think these characters, but more importantly… it’s making me re-think my life.

So often I take the easy way out when it comes to judging friends and family. I “skim” through them, looking for a fast solution, categorizing them in a blink, and filing that neat summation away while I return to my own needs. Dealing with one of Molly’s friends challenges this habit. It’s a lesson I wish I’d learned sooner. It also explains why I adore Molly so much.

Despite my attempts to look at all sides of a person’s personality, I’m not an ethical relativist. I believe in Objective Moral Truth. I just don’t think we know what it is, nor will we ever. It’s a limit on a graph, something we approach asymptotically, but never reach. It’s clear to me that some people are closer to that limit and some are farther away. The former deserve our admiration and respect. The latter need our help and our own good example.

Something about Molly makes me tear up just at the sight of her name. Is it my obsession with chronicling her life? Or does it have something to do with the complex nature of good and evil? I think it might be that she’s so breathtakingly high in my ethical esteem, that I feel nervous for her; and I’m in awe of her. Like a trapeze artist teetering on a high, fine line with no net below.

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