March 23, 2008

Deepness seen in literature

This post is part of a three-part series of posts that will explore the concepts of deepness in literature, shallowness, and the answer to the questions posed in the first two parts.

Is depth of thought a virtue? First, let us look to books for examples of deepness.

In Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Emily of New Moon, we hear Aunt Ruth speaking about Emily:

"But the thing I dislike most in her is that she is unchildlike--and deep as the sea. Yes, she is, Laura--deep as the sea."

Emily certainly is deep. She spends her time writing letters to her dead father, making up stories and poems, and thinking her own secret, unreachable thoughts. She confounds, mystifies, and allures those around her. Yet what does her deepness accomplish? It helps her writing, certainly, but what lasting value does it have? It seems that while it may be delightful to confuse and worry others by living on a different plane, it serves no real purpose to bring glory to God.

In The Amazing Adventures of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton, Father Brown encounters a man named Kalon who calls himself a prophet of Apollo. This man is a prime suspect for a murder.

In the long and startled stillness of the room the prophet of Apollo rose...His robed form seemed to hang the whole room with classic draperies; his epic gesture seemed to extend it into grander perspectives, till the little black figure of the modern cleric seemed to be a fault and an intrusion, a round, black blot upon some splendour of Hellas.
"We meet at last," said the prophet. "Not even faintly could you understand how little I care whether you can convict me or no. The things you call disgrace and horrible hanging are to me no more than an ogre in a child's toy-book to a man once grown up. "

This "priest of Apollo" is so deep, so inaccessible, so larger-than-life. He claims to understand life so fully that even death cannot harm him. Yet Kalon, most confident of all men, is revealed to be fraud. When his scheme falls apart, his countenance and aspect are transformed, showing nothing more than a gruff, angry man. Is this the kind of deepness we strive for- a trusting in oneself and a spotless appearance serving as a facade to the sin within? Certainly not!

Finally, turn with me to the pages of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. John (a.k.a. Mr. Savage) is the only man who will not conform to the demands of the new society. He is repulsed by the rampant shallowness and submission to the desires of flesh. He understands that without a moral standard, man is empty and trapped. But his deepness and his unwillingness to give up his Shakespearean ideals only drives him to the depths of despair and misery. His suffering serves no purpose to change the culture. Why should we take the trouble to think if it will only lead us to insanity?

What are the logical conclusions of all this? Well, if deepness only bewilders and distances you from others and makes you go mad, then we should strive to live on the surface and not dare to dig deeper! According to logic,* we should shun the intellect and live a shallow life to avoid the dangers of thought.

Continued in Part 2, The option of shallowness.

*D v S Either deep or shallow
~D Not deep
Therefore, S Therefore, shallow.


Serfy said...

I would argue semantically that depth of character and the deepness of a character's thoughts and words are two different things.

Looking forward to the next post!

btw I believe the word is Shakespearean, not Shakespearian.

Art said...

Thank you! I've corrected the spelling. Good point about depth of character- it made me realize that the word character is misleading and doesn't adequately convey my meaning.

the ozed one said...

Hi, ditto with serfy, but I wouldn't say that the two are mutually exclusive. It also might help if you define your terms up front.
So this is going to be a literary blog?

Art said...

"I wouldn't say that the two are mutually exclusive." does the two refer to depth of character and deepness of a character's thoughts and words? If so, then I would agree with you!
I've only changed it to bring more clarity to my writing.
If not, could you clarify?

To your second question, yes and no. For now I can only think of literary examples, but if God gives me something else to write about, I will.

the ozed one said...

Yeah, that's what I meant.