Have you ever had the feeling whilst reading a book that you could totally understand the character because they were just like you?
If you’ve read Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse I’m sure you remember the part when a stranger gives Harry Haller a book about himself – Treatise on the Steppenwolf – which was a book explaining Harry’s personality.
So it is that kind of a moment when you just want to shout out loud: Oh my, this is so me! The author must have thought of me (or at least a person strangely similar to me) whilst writing this book!
If I were a character from a book I’d be Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Not only it is one of my favourite books, but above all I could identify with the person embodied in Gatsby because this person is oddly similar to myself. Not that I throw large glamorous parties in a castle-like mansion and earn millions thanks to my business with bootlegged alcohol, but I could easily use Gatsby as a metaphor to my own (a bit more ordinary) life.
It is, in a way, a glamorous life that I live, a beautiful life it is indeed. I have a need for buzz, adventures, inspiration and excitement. All this however, like Gatsby, on the background of total loneliness and solitude. A lone wolf who values his privacy and intimacy above anything else. A house full of people does not mean one can’t feel alone. In a crowd but still alone.
He’s got everything and nothing at the same time. He always looks careless, pleased and smiling but his body hides a caring, thoughtful and a self-reflective personality. He likes to be surrounded by beautiful things, but they matter only a little. Very few people know him, but many think they do. He cares sometimes too much about what others think of him and tries to make himself look better than he actually is. He wants to reach excellence. He strives for perfection.
Gatsby’s greatest virtues are patience and hope, both of which symbolize his love for Daisy. She is the one person in his heart but this love does not have merely a romantic motive. There’s a deeper sense in loving Daisy. It is as though by being with her he would be able to return to the very basics, to the core of his true self and thus he is desperate for a second chance. This would mean a new beginning of something old, but this time it will last for ever.
Something else is embodied in Daisy, something very fundamental for him. He’s convinced that by being with her he becomes a better person, the one he always wanted to become – how he pictured himself all along. In consequence he spends half the time dwelling in the past, the other half thinking about and planning the future. So much so he sometimes forgets to live in the present. He wishes to repeat the past in the better future.
I too have my “Daisy”, who lives “across the bay from me”. Very close, yet so far away.
Have anyone of you ever identified with a character from a book? If you have, who would you be? 🙂