A Fate Worse Than Death

One day I'll quit talking about DOCTOR WHO. Today is not that day.

I'd forgotten that not all victories are about saving the universe. --Rory 
One of the main characters mentioned this in the latest episode, and it really struck a chord with me. It got me thinking about the things I find most memorable in books.

And it's not the big battle at the end. It's not slaying the dragon, or throwing the ring in Mordor, or defeating Voldemort.

It's the small things.

I felt more triumph, as a reader, when the father and son share a Coke in Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, than at any other moment in the book. Such a small detail--a small victory--but a meaningful one.  Harry's confession of love for Ginny--an action that terrified him--made me cheer more than his triumph over Voldemort. When Tris jumped onto the train for the first time, my heart was racing more than when she started the revolution in DIVERGENT.

I'm not sure why the little battles are sometimes so much more important to me than the big ones. Perhaps it's because I've got a fairly certain idea that the hero will win the big fight--but it's never for sure he'll win all the little ones. Or perhaps it has more to do with the fact that I will face the little battles myself much more than the big ones. I've felt the fear of confessing love, the desire to have something rare, the decision to do something stupid and dangerous just because I could. Maybe it's the little battles that remind me of me.


L.L. Muir said...

I think you're right. I think it's the fact that we're not sure which of the small battles our heroes and heroines are going to win.

Remember in Hunger Games, it seemed like she lost almost every other challenge, so when something went right we were pretty freaking excited about it.

Nichole Giles said...

I love this post. It's so true. Really, it's the small scenes, the character building ones, that give us the opportunity to identify and connect with character and story in a way that affects us for the better. Great point.

Josin L. McQuein said...

The big battles are the ones out of the characters' control. When it's life or death, save the universe, send the dark lord to the aether time, then circumstances make the choices for them, but when it's not so dire, the character really shines.

Harry could have kept his mouth shut, let Ginny make her own assumptions, and gone on to finish his destiny.

Tris could have decided not to jump onto the train - it's not like they would have expected much different from an Abnegation. She would have had to deal with some ribbing and some dirty looks, but she would have lived.

Those are real choices, where there's nothing except the character's own self to determine the direction.

Hermana Tiffany Garner said...

You stole my blog post!! haha

This is so true. If you didn't have the little battles or accomplishment along the way, there would be no validity to the story. I think an important thing to remember is that while Harry killing Voldemort is a momentous occasion, everything else he did (confessing his love to Ginny, etc) is going to stay with him. His story doesn't end just because Voldemort's dead. I think that's why the little battles stay with us.

And never stop talking about Doctor Who. I know I won't :)

Heather Anastasiu said...

There can never be too much Dr. Who talk, especially when you're talking about Rory! Yep, I think the heart and soul of books aren't in the big action sequences, but in the details. That's where the sublime happens.

Sommer Leigh said...

I think the little battles have more immediate individual consequences that a character has to live with longer than the big battles which have consequences too big to wrap your brain around.

So, let's say you're about to tell the boy you've been in love with since your first day of high school that you love him and have loved him for the last four years. You risk rejection, humiliation, heartbreak, and the ending of an obsession. It won't kill you, but it will take a long time to recover.

Later, you will have one chance to save the world against a villain. The consequences of being thrown in jail for breaking into a building the villain is in and killing him or dying yourself are monumental, but you don't have to deal with the consequences if you don't make it out and if you don't risk jail time, you risk certain annihilation.

It seems like an easier choice than the first.

Guilie Castillo said...

Thanks for the reminder. Yep, it's the small things, isn't it? And it's so easy to forget. Sure, the special-effects mega-battles of the end, all the fireworks and all, they're important too -- for closure, maybe -- but it's those little victories, those deep, barely-visible fears vanquished, that really make our stories leap off the page and into the reader's everlasting memory. Thanks for this!

NeuroHormone said...

You know what I really liked about Amy? your Amy.
it's her regret. She didn't ask Jason about..you know. This regret made her real to me.
And her marathon dream.

your post made me think of this.
Little victories are important.
It's the point when Amy realises she is ready for the truth. =)