Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Duel

It's been a long time since I have written. Classes have been horrendous, and I'm surprised my eyes are well enough to look at this screen from all the reading I've done this semester. But only 24 days and then I'm done with college-hopefully forever! Here is a duel as I imagine it between Alexander Pope and J.K. Rowling. Who are some other contemporary and classic authors/critics it would be fun to throw against each other? And do you prefer classics or contemporary works/authors and why?

“How dare you insult my work of art!” J.K. Rowling screeches, raising her sword high.
            Alexander Pope straightens his shoulders and lifts his gleaming saber high. “It cannot be a work of art, as you say, if it doesn’t point to the ancient writers.”
            “And why not? They had their faults. My novels have the same unity found throughout the early works of fiction such as Joseph Andrews and Clarissa, without wandering in the woods of endless detail and ranting like Fielding and Dickens.” She gives a quick flick of the hand holding the wand, and images appear floating over the clearing: Harry Potter’s tale flashes before their eyes, from his delivery to the Dursley’s to the defeat of Lord Voldemort.
            “That may be so,” Pope replies once the images vanish into the cool mists of the evening, “but the early writers desired to teach virtue to their readers so that they could become better people. Today, however, authors merely wish to entertain and please their audience.”
            “All writers to some extent want to entertain their readers, be it through comedy or tragedy, or a mixture of both.” Rowling waves the hand without the wand in the air. “I mean, look at Shakespeare. He had his audiences usually either rolling on the floor in laughter or weeping rivers.”
            “He used the old forms,” Pope says.
            “Samuel Johnson didn’t think so. Shakespeare’s plots and characters were more complex than those of the Greek’s, and he didn’t stick with the categories of comedy and tragedy.”
            “And,” Rowling places a hand on her hip, “There may be many authors today who merely wish to make money with their writing and just cater to the crowds, like the book Shades of Grey,” (here she gags), “and those Amish romances, but most books teach us something, whether the author intended it or not.”
            “Yes, but the ancients wrote their books with the purpose to teach people, not just to let the reader learn whatever they will. And most authors today do not hold the same truths of beauty and order as the ancients did.”
            J.K. Rowling frowns.“There are people in every generation who hold a different standard than what nature says is beautiful. And yes, our society may have wandered from this more than the rest, but you could argue that Shakespeare’s works are too bawdy and coarse. Authors today could write more openly to teach, but if it is too bold, the readers would abscond. Also, some people today do manage to point to truths in their novels.”
            Rowling flicks her wand, and an image of Harry’s mother, Lily, dying for him pops into the air, with the whisper of words, “Your mother’s sacrifice protects you.” Then the scene changes to Harry giving up his life to Lord Voldemort to save his friends.
            In the silence that follows these visions, Rowling says quietly, “What is more truthful and good than the theme of sacrificial love?”
            Pope shifts, then says, “Your books may have more beauty in them than others. But they cannot show human nature realistically since they take place in an unrealistic, fantasy world.”
            Rowling stares at him, then chuckles softly. “What about the monster in Frankenstein? What about the Cyclops in The Odyssey and the other creatures Odysseus fights? The vampire in Dracula? These tales all have elements of unreality, but they are considered classics. And many people exalt Tolkien’s works, which most definitely are ‘fantasy.’ But his works are so deep that even reading them three times one can’t take in all of his truths about power, good and evil, friendship, loyalty, nature (creation), love, and art."
            “Even fantasy depicts human nature," Rowling continues, "for authors of this genre must base their characters, even non-human ones, on humans, for that is all we know. People can often learn better and more from fantasy than realism because they are relaxed and not expecting to learn. And if we do not show the exalted, how can we know what to strive for?”  Rowling flips her wand around in her hand. “Tolkien also has some great essays on the subject, but I can’t recall them at the moment.”
            Pope opens his mouth to reply, probably in some melodious poem, but Rowling waves her wand. “I’m weary of this.”

            A large, dark blue dragon appears in the middle of the clearing and stalks towards Pope. The man fights valiantly, but alas, in the end the beast eats him.