Contemplating Freedom

12 August 2011

My absolute love of historical fiction leads me to appreciate things that I otherwise would never give a second thought. Freedoms, in particular. Desmond Tutu said once that only those individuals who've had their freedom removed can ever fully appreciate the gift of freedom. I agree. Books that have transported me back the the 15th and 16th century have introduced me to a time in which rulers designated thoughts of human equality as heretical. Just pause and think for a moment, of the implications; can you imagine a life in which no freedom of equality exists? Can you imagine a life in which you could see yourself executed or burned at the stake for practising an "un-sanctioned" religion? Can you imagine a world in which the mere reading of The Bible, for a common, lay person, would spell heresy and ultimately, death? Can you imagine an life so cloaked in a darkness which blots out any new ideas, new knowledge, or new ways of seeing things? Google Galileo, and read about his life and works; you will see the enormity of it all, of life lived under the damocles' sword of a united Church and State.

Rooting for the So-Called Villain

I've spent a great deal of time these past weeks reading historical fiction. Currently I find myself reading a series about the Borgias, narrated from the POV of a (fictional) poisoner. Long before the television series about the original crime family, and long before I'd come across any of the books about them, I knew of the treacherous reputation of the Borgias. Corruption, bribery, and the like ~ none of these befitting for the occupant of St. Peter's Throne. History paints these Borgias as villains, at best. Yet, in reading these fictionalized accounts of them, I cannot help but empathize with Borgia and his family.

I recently read Dracula: The Un-dead, a sequel to the original Bram Stoker novel. Once again, we see a monster portrayed as worthy of our empathy. This book depicts a monster capable of feeling, giving and receiving love. How can this be? Does it seem naive, then, to view the world as a series of contrasts of black and white? When does a being become it's heinous actions? Do we ever need to consider the context? Perhaps, instead of good and evil, we have shades of each. This complicates things, our understanding of things.

I find it interesting when authors paint their stories such that the bad guy seems worthy of readers' sympathies.


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