The Lord of Misrule meets the Eternal Boy

Sorry, I can’t help how life imitates art. I can’t help how the 2017 US president elect, to my mind at least, resembles some of the more odious elements portrayed in literature. I frequently use these elements in my writing and am loathed to harm their reputations by risking too long an association with a real life puer aeternus, a real life alazon, a real life Lord of Misrule.

Readers have asked me how intentional were the literary archetypes discoverable by the perceptive reader in my novel HOUSE OF LARGE SIZES. I answer that there may be some driven by my subconscious–god knows, I believe that is a massive part of the creative process–but for the most part I think the archetypes I tried to employ were deliberate.

I was pleased to see a review wherein the archetype of the puer aeternus (eternal boy) was noticed and briefly discussed. It’s pleasing to have the authorial usage of my academic heroes, Northrup Frye, Henry James and E.M. Forster discovered by close readers. Frye’s seminal work on structuralism, An Anatomy of Criticism, has been a teaching and writing guide during my entire career in the literary business, as has Forster’s Aspects of the Novel; so, as I developed House of Large Sizes it was natural for me to rely on what I had learned. I wanted to loosely base the book on the first known epic, Gilgamesh, whose main character of course is a classic puer; hence, the character Gilbert Pym.

A stickier issue is, which character in the my novel is ‘The Lord of Misrule’? And of course which characters are alazons and which are eirons? As the characters emerged they tended to choose their own roles, but some had to be nudged into shape like recalcitrant teenagers. I wanted a Lord of Misrule but didn’t want it to be too obvious. Overplaying these archetypes leads to lame characters and cliches, so it’s important to understand them well, whilst at the same time breathing their values obliquely into a novel’s homo ficti (fictional people). 

Writers may find some brief definitions helpful, both for developing the character constellation of their novels, and for identifying real-life power-mongers, who, like fictional characters, need to be laughed off the stage before they cause too much damage.

Alazon: A deceiving or self-deceived character in fiction, normally an object of ridicule in comedy or satire, but often the hero of a tragedy. In comedy he most frequently takes the form of a miles glorious or a pedant.

Eiron: A self-deprecating or unobtrusively treated character in fiction, usually an agent of the happy ending in comedy and of the catastrophe in tragedy. He is cleverer than he seems and acts as the skewerer of the alazon; he’s designed to take air out of windbags.

Puer Aeternus: An eternal boy, a grown male prone to unwise or childish pursuits. An adult lost in childhood. In fiction a Peter Pan character. In real life, politicians, executives and churchmen who, despite being promoted to positions of power, are guided by the boy in their psyches rather than the man.

Lord of Misrule: A fake official appointed to oversee Christmas festivities during the 15th and 16th centuries. Lords of Misrule were furnished with absurd hobbyhorses, dragons, and musicians to further the fun. Polydor Virgil says the feast of misrule was derived from the saturnalia, the disorderly Roman festival held in December. In real life Lords of Misrule sometimes win elections if the populace that votes for them is gullible enough. Letting them keep power always spells disaster.

I would welcome responses as to how these archetypes are used in House of Large Sizes. Write here, on Amazon, or on Goodreads. 

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