Saturday, January 5, 2008

Introverts in Books and Family

So many things to write about all of a sudden. I am having such a glorious spree reading about Hundertwasser's work. I have finished three paintings in the last few days and will post them this week. I have more to write about art, but let's take a break.

I left a rather long comment on Moomin Light this morning, and felt I should post it here (though I believe she and I share some readers) to see if others have books to contribute to this conversation. Please add a comment if you also related to books because of the introverts in them - particularly if introversion is the norm in that book.

Here is Moomin Light's original post - "Moomintroverts" - which is about the Moomin characters of Tove Jansen. You should read this first.

Here is my comment:

I always felt the Moomin books seemed to describe our family in some way - or that their life together seemed strangely familiar, and in a way I'd never found in any other book. Now I think you've hit on a large part of it. So many introverts, and so much of the story from their point of view, taken as the norm, not the exception. That's us.

Introverted viewpoints are so much the norm, actually, that the Hemulen's brief moment to carry the story seems very strange, like we've stuck our head into a fish tank and opened our eyes. Another world. But in many stories that's the common viewpoint, and even when introverts are the main characters (and they often are, since authors may be introverts in enormous numbers) the story is often about them casting aside their shell, or getting out into the world despite it. In Moomin Valley introversion is acceptable, and the romping that takes place is companionable in a gentler way as a result.

The quiet gentleness of these books also appears in the Marzipan Pig - and is part of why I love it. I think most of those characters are also loners and introverts. The bee, the mice, the owl, the clock. Actually the hibiscus' plight is so keen in part because she is an extrovert trapped on a stem. And her first comment to the bee is so jarring because her style is so different from everyone else. Like the Hemulen.

I wonder if we can find other favorite books that are full of introverts. The Pooh books have more than the normal share, don't they. The Wind in the Willows (Mole, Badger, even Ratty, to some extent, who only needs one or two friends at a time, and loves his quiet moments alone on the river - all a sharp contrast to Toad, who is, again, a caricature like the Hemulen).

Now I'm not saying you extroverts are like cartoon characters - but introverts are often the ones depicted as odd or in need of fixing in many books - so it's fun and refreshing (especially for an introvert) to encounter some books where the extrovert must reform (like Toad of Toad Hall).

How about some grown up fiction? The Austen books? Is that part of their peculiar charm in this house - how sense, quietness, and manners triumph in the end?

Readers - any contributions to this conversation? Books where introverts are at home being introverts - and maybe even heroes because of it?

(Photo at top is from the Poet's Walk at Ayrmount, in Hillsborough. A favorite walk and talk place for my dear one and I.)


DebD said...

I enjoyed your wife's post as I had never heard of the Moomin books until she blogged about it. I didn't realize her blog title was an homage to a series.

I think you (and she) bring up an interesting point about most character's being introverts. I don't know that I have read any books where the introvert has been allowed to stay an introvert (thinking of Bilbo in the Hobbit). But he was certainly at home being an introvert, he just wasn't allowed to stay one.

But, that brings up another thought. Don't many books basically use the "fish out of water" theme? They allow us to come along for the ride?

Okay, that probably doesn't answer your question at all.

Steve Emery said...

I agree. To turn the "fish out of water" image around for Moomin world, in Moominland Midwinter (the most introvert celebrating of the Moomin books) it's the Hemulen who is out of place - like a large loud mammal that has fallen INTO the water with the fish. And we see the story from the point of view of the fish. That's what's so unusual about these books, and what led me to challenge readers to think of others like that - especially for grown-ups.