I went the the Messiah last night. It was brilliant (especially the
viola chorus parts) and during some of the more repetive bits, I decided what people should be called, based on their faces (Gilbert! Janice! Kevin! Jonathan!) Do you ever play that game?
So I have noticed that in books, people tend to think that they are ordinary.That they don’t have any special talents or skills. That they don’t stand out. That they couldn’t change anything.
For example, in Divergent, Tris thinks that she is ordinary. But the books spends large portions of time showing that she is special. And the blurb is all “1 girls choice will change everything *drumroll*”. Which is all related to the modern, Western way of thinking- a belief in the power of the individual. And some individuals have enormous power- but there aren’t that many of them.
But I have never read a book and believed it when a character says that they are ordinary. By the very act of being singled out for their story to be told, they are no longer ordinary. Some characters, such as Celaena Sardothien, know that they are not ordinary. But others, like Elise (from This Song Will Save Your Life) feel very ordinary. The definition of ordinary (from google)is : with no special or distinctive features; normal (adjective) or what is commonplace or standard (noun).
However, I don’t agree that normal and ordinary are comparable words. Everyone is ordinary: no one is normal. Normal is how you think everyday life should work as a cultural average (I sort of made that definition up), whereas ordinary is how your everyday life works. For instance, many people would think that my life of belonging to two cultures, living most of the time in India, reading copiously, tramping in the Himalayas during holidays, and occasionally crashing into inanimate objects as abnormal (because, lets face it, I am not a cultural average) , but for me it is utterly ordinary.
Now, most peoples lives don’t have plot. But by the very act of hearing someones stories (in a book or IRL) do you stop them from being ordinary? Does empathy with another person, understanding them, stop them from being ordinary and make them special? Would Christina’s story, or Hazel(from the Hunger Games), or Sophie (from the Infernal Devices) be equally special if we read about them? Now, some books, such as the Truth About Alice, or A Little Something Different, have multiple perspectives that tell a story, but its not about the characters with the perspectives, its about the person/people at the heart of the action. Which I like, but I actually wank to find out more about the people telling the society, even if they are “ordinary”.
So, in conclusion : if your story is being told, you are special. If your story could be told, you are special. If you have a story, you are special. And if you listen to someone else’ ordinary, you are both special. Everyones’ ordinary, which is not normal is special. Consider this as you read.
And a quote from Ruin and Rising :“They had an ordinary life, full of ordinary things-if love can ever be called that.”
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