God’s blessing to you on this the third day of January in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 2017.
I finally got the year right on the first try today. 🙂
Yesterday I mentioned the idea of character growth in stories. The way I was taking the idea of character growth was that the character himself changes, typically by learning to be more moral than he had been before. It would also be a character arc for a character to degenerate, and those are legitimate stories, both when they are degeneration-and-redemption arcs as well as when they’re simply cautionary tales (e.g. The House of the Rising Sun). However, there are some very significant differences between those and growth, specifically because growth is (or can be, depending on the specifics) a natural thing to our species, while degeneration is not.
Now, it is true that in a proper sense we all grow in every moment, for time means that we become more, one moment at a time. (Not on our own, of course, but we’re not alone; as Saint Augustine said, though not precisely in these words, God gathers up the shattered moments of our lives and puts them together into a whole.) But that’s a very concrete sort of thing; each word spoke, each byte of food, each breath taken is adding to our being in this sense. Every act of charity is building ourselves, and in a strict sense is therefore changing us (since part of us is coming into being), but it’s not changing in the more colloquial sense of becoming harder to recognize. That’s not precisely what “change” means colloquially, but it’s close enough for the moment. Actually what we mean is probably more like, “no longer corresponds exactly to a description that someone would give”. When we talk about things changing, we mean according to an abstraction that we would give concentrating on what we would find important. I suspect a really precise definition would be nearly impossible to come up with, but for the most part most of us know what the rest of us mean. 🙂
Anyway, changing in this sense is something that’s supposed to happen very slowly for adults, and not generally as a result of particular experiences. We’re supposed to be sufficiently well formed by the time we reach adulthood so as to deal with the problems that come along. That doesn’t always work, of course, and this is a fallen world, but that’s why people get so fixated on flaws in characters. Flaws can be improved, which permits a character to grow during a story, despite them already being (in theory) a grown human being. I can’t help but think that this is roughly a lazy way of achieving a character arc. I’ll talk about this more tomorrow after I’ve had a little time to think about it, but at the very least this is one reason why (I think) young adult fiction is so popular with adults. By placing the character growth where it belongs (in children), it permits stories with better people in them.
Glory to God in the highest.