Monday, May 14, 2012

Misplaced Hero - Episode 3

The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire 

Episode 3 -The Invisible Man and The Misplaced Hero

IN COLLEGE, ALEX made a point of avoiding success.  He had no ambition.  He had outgrown his aunt's fanciful games, though sometimes he longed for a world where glory and honor mattered; a world where they didn't didn't seem so... dumb.

He indulged a little in pranks and sneakiness, but he never cheated, except now and then he would intentionally flunk a class.

The fact was, he didn't want to graduate.  School suited him, he had the money to stay, and he had no place else he wanted to go.  Why not?  He could be a perpetual student.

In his fifth year of college, on his third go round at a second year literature class, he planned to skip the final essay, but when he saw the topic, he changed his mind.

The assignment was to discuss one of the books they had read that term from the point of view of one of the great literary critics.  He had read all the novels, but he had not paid any attention at all to the lectures about literary theory. He couldn't have named one critic if he tried.

But one of the books had brought Aunt Flavia and her little midnight talk to mind. The Invisible Man was a serious modern novel about a man of color who slowly and inexorably becomes disillusioned with the promises of opportunity and equality in modern society.

In a scene near the end of the book, the hero has been utterly stripped of every one of his illusions, and he realizes that he is virtually invisible to the cynical world around him, and that this invisibility gives him power.  The man vows to use that power to hold society accountable to the values it pretended to hold dear.

When Alex read that scene, he heard his aunt's voice, telling him how heroes lie fallow, unnoticed, unappreciated -- invisible.  The man in the book was despised and ignored because of his race.  Wasn't this a variation on how the wealthy and blue-blooded heroes of adventure fiction might be ignored and dismissed for their uselessness?

And wasn't it really inappropriate to compare the two?  Wouldn't it be a guarantee of failure?

It was the anniversary of Aunt Flavia's death, and the essay seemed like a tribute to her.  Something grand, if a little useless, like a misplaced hero.  A good way to end the school year.

After finals week was done, Alex normally would have taken off and not bothered to pick up the graded essay... but this time he found himself thinking about it.  Wondering about the reaction.  So he went to the department office and picked it up.  

He hesitated as he went to open the envelope.  Then he laughed at himself and tore the envelope open.
The whole essay was crumpled as though someone had balled it up and thrown it away.  But they must have retrieved it, for it had been flattened and graded.  Scrawled across the top, in bold red letters was:


And below that was the grade:


A perfect score.  There were no other marks on the essay.

Alex went back into the office to inquire as to whether Professor Thornton was still on campus.  He was informed, shortly, by an overworked and disapproving secretary, that he could find Old Thorny enjoying "happy hour" at a local restaurant.

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Um the Muse said...

Ha ha. I can really relate to the protagonist here. I think that there are a lot of people who feel invisible to the world at large; it's part of the success of social networks and social meeting places.

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks for commenting!

Of course Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man was written well before the internet, and Zorro even earlier than that.

But you are right that modern times have their own alienation that resonates with the past like that.

(I see you have a whole raft of serials on your blog! I encourage folks to click on your name and check them out.)