They're so Supportive!

Just for kicks and giggles today, I'm going to post some of my favorite NOT-main characters from some of my favorite books, in no particular order.
  • "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", Betty Smith- Aunt Sissy. I love Aunt Sissy. She's the one everyone calls "a bad girl", but she has a heart of gold that's overflowing with love. Of course, she's called a bad girl because she is pretty free and open with that love. That doesn't matter to me. I admire her down-to-earth good sense and practical logic. She also has one of the best lines in the book. She and Katie are talking about a woman's special appearance for her husband at those romantic times.... Sissy says, "At night, all cats are gray." How true. How very true.
  • "Lonesome Dove", Larry McMurtry - Deets. (spoiler alert!) What Call carves on his grave marker says it all. "Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task.". Those are two of my favorite qualities in any person. That those qualities belonged to a man who had learned how to be happy in his own life, as disenchanting as that life may be? I love that.
  • "To Kill a Mockingbird", Harper Lee - Calpurnia. That strong and capable woman is the rock of the Finch family. She is The One who was brave enough to go knock on the Radley's door when there was a mad dog coming. She is the one who brought security, manners, penmanship and good cooking to the Finch house. We all need a Calpurnia in our lives, don't we?
  • "Chesapeake", James Michener - Rosalind Steed. Fair Rosalind. I think Rosalind Steed is one of the great female characters of all time. Rosalind Steed is a plain-looking woman whose unprepossessing shell contains a wealth of love, intelligence, passion, compassion, courage, wisdom.... she loves her stepchildren deeply, she fights the pirates, she fights the sexist, unjust city judicial system. She is tenacious. She also does what may be the most difficult thing of all: she knows when to let go. Rosalind Steed is an object lesson for all women, IMHO. She reminds us that our capacity for love is in no way linked to our culture's assessment of beauty. She reminds us that you have to stand up for what's right. She reminds us that a true measure of a human being is their grace under disappointment and courage under fire.
  • "Clan of the Cave Bear", Jean Auel - Brun. Brun is the leader of the clan that picks up this orphaned girl. If ever there was guy who had a cuckoo egg tipped into his sparrow's nest, it's Brun. He has to face more unheard-of situations because of this one skinny, flat-faced girl than all of his ancestors combined ever had. Bless his heart for not throwing her out into the snow right at the beginning. This is a guy who has his own home life disrupted on several levels because of Ayla. She's an anomaly. She's a pain in the ass, even if she doesn't mean to be. She is a complete outsider in his very closed world, and still, he does not cast her out. He learns to apply a new insight to this young woman and grows to respect her. This is a guy who probably had the closest thing there is to a real reason to be racist, but instead, he opened his mind.
  • "Hawaii", James Michener - Malama. OK, she's more of main character than some of the others, but she's still secondary to Abner and Jerusha Hale in the character ranks. Malama is quite a woman, I think. Can you imagine being the alii nui of a village, with a culture that has been thriving for eons, suddenly faced with a whole new kind of person? What do you do when someone comes along bringing a new god, a new world order, new medicine, new ideas and new condemnations? Malama could have kicked them off the island or even had them killed. She had many reasons to not like them. They smelled terrible, for one thing. Our white American missionaries were a pretty smelly lot and quite offensively dirty to the Hawaiians, you know. Abner Hale was a pompous ass who wanted to tell Malama how wrong she was and how right he was. She looked past all that, and looked for the true meaning of the message he brought. She looked at that not only from a religious point of view, but also what all these new stinky whites were going to mean for the future of her people. She was one smart woman.
  • "Gone With the Wind", Margaret Mitchell - Carreen. Poor Carreen. She really got the short shrift. Her big sisters are both selfish and bossy. The love of her life is killed in the war. Her heart is broken irreparably. Through it all, she tries to stay cheerful, works when she feels sick and tries to keep the peace between her two older sisters. Let's be honest now, girls. Would YOU want Scarlett O'Hara as your big sister? Not me. I love to cheer for Scarlett's spunk, but I'd sure hate to be in any way at her mercy! I think sweet Carreen is a dear heart and I so wish that she would have fallen in love with Will Benteen. Of course, the rest of the story would have had to be different if that had happened and I certainly couldn't dare to try to tell Ms. Mitchell to change her story for the likes of me. I just wanted so much for sweet Carreen to be happy.
Those supporting characters in books (and in films) are always so important, but no one ever seems to talk much about them. Without them the depth of the story would fail. One of the best examples I can think of is in Lonesome Dove, both the book and the miniseries. We get a clear view into Call's heart for a moment, when he carves that marker for Deets. We get to see a man who is deeply affected by the loss of his friend. His actions show that, in spite of all the many deaths he as seen in his life, this death HURTS. The words he carves on the marker show us the qualities in that friend that made him so cherished by Call. His steadiness, his alacrity. Deets is gone in the scene, but Call's reaction to losing him shows us a whole new side of Call.

I've always said that you can tell a lot about a person by the friends they choose. You can tell a lot about a character by the supporting cast, and you can tell a lot about the author by qualities they choose to give those characters.

Margaret Mitchell wrote a character who was so tender and sweet, and whose heart was so badly broken, that she wanted to simply retreat from the world. She wanted to take herself away from all the pain and drama of life and never fall in love again. She was a good Catholic girl who could never consider suicide. So she did the next thing to it (in those days). I wonder if Margaret Mitchell didn't maybe, just maybe, feel that same way herself once.