Thursday, November 16

Everybody is Really Very Much Like Everybody Else

When I was maybe 11 my mother introduced me to Agatha Christie. I think it was Mom's thinking was that nothing much happens in an Agatha Christie book that you wouldn't want a kid to read. Well okay there are those dead bodies, but even they are done with good taste, artfully arranged and already dead so you don't even have the violence factor.

Christie's most famous character was the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, a rather comic figure with a mustache obsession. But very very people smart. He understood that people do fall into types or categories and usually act according to type. Yeah, I know its terribly un-PC, but these books were written back before WWII, most of them.

Another of her characters was Miss Jane Marple. Miss Marple was an elderly spinster lady (it was the 1930s, people; they had spinsters back then) who lived most of her life in one small English village of St. Mary Mead. Miss Marple has learned in her life time that what most people call intuition is really just being guided by your own life experiences. In her first appearance in "The Murder At The Vicarage" Miss Marple describes it this way: "Intuition is like reading a word without having to spell it out. A child can't do that because it has so little experience. But a grown up person knows the word because he's seen it often before." I've always thought that was an excellent analogy. You recognize when something is a bad idea without having it "spelled out" because you've seen this situation before, or heard about it, or heard of someone else's experiences. Recognizing those similarities gives Miss Marple an advantage over the police quite frequently.

Miss Marple also says, in many ways through out many stories, that people are really very much the same wherever you go. And I've discovered over and over again how very true that is. People do fall into 'types'. Oh, not obvious ones. But if you live long enough, and you pay enough attention, you start noticing things. That perfectly likeable person that turns out to be completely unreliable. The grouchy complainer that actually comes through for you before anyone else. The clean cut kid at the store who ends up short changing the next customer. And somehow your 'intuition' recognizes pieces of them in other people you meet.

This was Christie's genius. The plots were fun and the mysteries clever. But what made her books timeless is the characters. Those bits and pieces of real life behavior that she weaves into fictional people. Not just the good and bad people, but the everyday people. The person who means well but ends up pushing someone away. The one who wants so badly to be impressive that they make entirely the wrong impression. There are variations on themes but essentially people fall into a finite number of categories. And often when we are reading we'll come across some character, over the top and more of a caricature, perhaps; but all the same, they remind us of someone. Because art really does imitate life. And everybody really is very much like everybody else.

7 comments:

Lou said...

Great post, McB. It is true, the longer you live, the more you realize that people do fit into categories - loosely - but they do fit.

bon cheri bomb said...

And everybody really is very much like everybody else.

Yeah, and then you stumble across a web site where people refer to themselves as explosive fruit and realize all bets are off and you have never met people quite like this before -- and you're so happy because you fit right in.

Scary, isn't it, how very similar we are?

bw

rssasrb said...

Very true. And as much as you want people to not fall into those categories, they still do.

Glad you started posting. Reading them is almost like driving from New Jersey to Maryland talking.

Love the one about your fears for civilization. These individuals behind the counters make you wonder how they will raise their children. Frightening.

I hope my boys don't do the same thing when they're working with the public. But they might, sigh.

My middle son has decided he doesn't want to ever again serve people from behind a counter. My favorite story from his summer job is the person who walked up and asked him what flavor pretzels he had. Deadpan face. "Pretzel flavor." Glad he's going to be a musician though stand up comedy is an option.

You're going to disable comments again aren't you. I'll stop.

McB said...

Oh geez. I didn't intentionally disable comments. I'm still figuring this whole blooger thing out. Every dang time I do a new post I screw something else up. Now it won't even give me the little edit pencil option.

Anyway, if you see BCB's comment out there in blogger land somewhere, would you please send it home?

bon cheri bomb said...

Geez. And I thought I was bad at this whole blogger thing. But I notice you've at least figured out how to make links. Um, do they work? Or do they send you into a black hole?

What I said before was... I have no idea.

It was in response to you saying: And everybody really is very much like everybody else.

And then I said something like: Yeah, and then you stumble across a place where people refer to themselves as explosive fruit and realize all bets are off and you have never before encountered people like that. And then you realize how very much they are just like you and that makes you happy. Until you realize how scary it is, that you are just like them.

Of course it sounded better and made more sense the first time I said it, two freaking days ago, before you withheld approval and deleted my comment. Yeah, just try to tell me it got lost. I know you deleted it. See if I ever let you drive again.

Hrmph.

BTW, nice cat. [grin]

bw

Scope Dope Cherrybomb said...

And all this time I thought I was unique. Now Agatha Christie told the world I'm not. And she never even knew me. What does she know? /,D

Great post. Sometimes your profundity really amazes me and other times I just say to myself, Yup that's mcb.

How did you and Robin talk to each other on the drive from New Jersey to Maryland from two different cars? That must have been some cell phone bill. Did you have New Jersey money?

McB said...

Hi, Scope!

Dee and Kim kicked me out. Left me along side of the road, stranded on the Turnpike with no New Jersey money. Fortunately Robin came along and was headed in the same direction so I bummed a ride.

Just kidding. We were all headed in the same direction but Robin had drove up alone so I kept her company and then we did all meet up at one of the roadside rest places.

BCB said And then you realize how very much they are just like you and that makes you happy. Until you realize how scary it is, that you are just like them.

*snort* and its so much better to think they are like you than that you are like them. But at least we all found people who understand us. Scary, but they do.