On tragic heroines

Some of my family members arrived in Manila a few days ago. I toured them to the best of my abilities (which was limited since I never went out of home much) and showed them the supposed sights of the place. While I loathe going out much more now, I was able to keep my responsibility as brother and son (somehow). I once only disliked riding on the MRT. Back then, however, I wasn’t forced to lug a very heavy bag while being squished into spaces tighter than those in a sardine can. I absolutely abhor it now: carrying that bag has made my back hurt, even until now, and the sheer violence that is necessary in riding on that train is extremely iniquitous; right now, I have smothered all my desire to go to the chic malls.

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Arcueid Brunestud is so beautiful

But despite these difficulties, I have been quite productive in the days that I was with my parents. I have read two novels, one critically-acclaimed and harrowingly beautiful; the second a spiel about Christianity. While I can easily justify reading Sophie’s Choice, justifying the reading of Queen of the Dark Chamber is more difficult. I can only say that one must partake of bad goods, or defective ones at some time in their lives so that it would allow one to realize how delicious and how sating the food that he has partaken of is. A good example would be taking for granted food cooked in one’s household. Indeed, the food is delicious, made with a mother’s (or father’s, or caretaker’s) love, but one ignores it as one has it everyday. However, when one has to take leave of the household (to go to a place with better education, or better wages), one is reminded of the delicacy and the piquancy of the food he has eaten at home when one is brought face to face with only fastfood joints and oleaginous foods to eat.

I have been reading classics for the most part of my life. I think I have arrived at the point that they don’t impress upon me as much as they did when I was just starting to inhale the fumes of knowledge and the beauty of literature (in the moxibustion of ignorance). In this vein I decided that I needed to read something that reminded me of how much I was enjoying: I decided to read a proselytizing novel, because their kind never fails to show the obvious difference between works of art and hogwash. (I’m no atheist, but I can read the Bible, thank you very much.)

With that done, let me now begin on the topic I had wanted to write about: tragic heroines.

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My favorite tragic heroine in anime

If one is a fan of literature, William Styron has been popular to many primarily because of his novel Sophie’s Choice. In fact, such was the controversy and the power of said novel that a ‘Sophie’s choice’ has found itself used colloquially. While he wrote of other novels such as Lie Down in Darkness and The Confessions of Nat Turner, the singular novel that has defined him as a maestro was Sophie’s Choice. Sophie was a central (and I cannot but emphasize utterly, inexorably tragic) character in the novel. (The novel was named after her, duh.) The narrator, however, was Stingo, a Southerner who was hoping to be a popular and critically-acclaimed writer in his later years. Due to a series of happenstances Sophie met with Stingo, but Stingo also met with Nathan, Sophie’s beau.

While I should not want to waste words by spoiling the whole novel, the novel unfolds the chain of tragedies that has occurred to Sophie in Auschwitz, a known (infamous) concentration camp by the Germans during the Second World War. The appearance of Sophie’s guilt (and perhaps utter disregard for her life) stems from a chain of decisions attempting to save the life of his son. This was not, however, the crux or the focal-point of her guilt. In the end one sees that the guilt which she was experiencing was something worse than death itself: she has tried to take her life time and time again, and it was because of the choice she had to made – the Sophie’s choice.

What, then, was the Sophie’s choice? People often speak of the thin line between life and death, and in Auschwitz was its physical simulacrum: there were two lines that separated those who were chosen to work, and those who were chosen to die. There was someone who was in-charge of the screening, and he was the one who gave a choice to Sophie. It was either she chose one of her two children to live, or both of them would die.

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Oh wow, I can’t help but spam her picture

She chose her son to live. (I think this was because a small and fragile girl of eight had a really low chance of living through Auschwitz than a healthy boy of 10, sexism aside.) While she never found him after the war, the guilt always remained, ingrained in the deepest recesses of her soul, and this was where the tragedy was: it was a tragedy which she could never escape, a guilt that was so unbearable she preferred death at times (and in the end, death prevailed over her). Before this, however, in a gesture of appreciation and love, she made love for the first and final time to Stingo, because his illusions of a placid and cheerful life at Stingo’s farm would never come to fruition (and both knew of this). The novel was beautiful, and while I still prefer novels like Crime and Punishment I can’t help but be astounded at the beauty of the ending. That’s for the reader to find out, though.

Sophie’s scene of making to love to Stingo, however, was highly reminiscent of an anime series that ranks still within my top three (and I think will remain there for the years to come). This series was Shingetsutan Tsukihime. While this series has many fans, it has also animadversions from disgruntled viewers. For one, the series didn’t feel complete. For another, the ending was unclear and ambiguous. I frankly thought that the two criticisms were among the series’ perks, but different people have different tastes. I just noted that endings of most great novels are ambiguous. The ending of Sophie’s Choice was unrelated to the focus of the novel, while Finnegans Wake had no ending altogether.

Just as Sophie made love to Stingo when she knew she was nearing death, Arcueid made love to Shiki when she knew she was going to her final battle soon. The tragedy goes both ways, however: Stingo and Shiki also love their respective women dearly, while Arcueid and Sophie (to a lesser extent for Stingo) also love their men but realize that it will never come to fruition. Arcueid realizes that in the end she remains a vampire while Shiki remains human: she will always crave for the others of his species. Such is her love for Shiki that rather than devour other members of his species she would just sleep forever while dreaming of their beautiful yet short time with one another. Likewise, Sophie realizes that despite Nathan’s schizophrenia and violence she loves him truly that even accompanying him to death is alright. It is the sacrifices of these women that complete the story and paint it so beautifully.

Even the hardest men can open up to love. But when love is transubstantiated into a form of transcendence, it is godly and unforgettable. Arcueid and Sophie surely are.

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6 Responses to “On tragic heroines”

  1. meganeshounen Says:

    As humans are… they will always regret past decisions they’ve made, no matter how good or bad their current position is. They’ll often think about the “what would have been” and the occasional “what if” scenario. In short, people are never content. It’s one of our flaws, yeah.

    If tragic TypeMoon girls are your thing, then Saber probably also fits that category. 2 out of 3 endings, she doesn’t end up with Shirou, which is right after they realize their love for each other.

    Well, make that 1 1/2, if you’re looking at the Realta Nua version. They did add that tiny bit at the end of the Fate storyline…

  2. Ryan A Says:

    I understand. Sofie’s Choice, from the scenes I sat and watched a few weeks ago was a powerful story, and I did not realize, but one of the scenes I did catch was the decision about the children. It is interesting that I didn’t have any premise, but from deduction alone I understood what and why things were happening (WWI, Nazi, death camps).

    Tragic heroines, they make their mark on us. I still find the ED sequence to Tsukihime reminiscent and beautiful, and I feel that her larger picture deepens the tragic feeling…. she was but a princess.

  3. Lupus Says:

    I believe the best kind of love is one that is fulfilled and in which one can find happiness. I admit, there’s a lure in tragedy that can make something seem more beautiful, but I feel that love’s nature is such that unless it is shared between two people and realised, and unless they can find happiness in it from each other, love is worthless. The kind of love you speak of only brings suffering, and in my eyes suffering is never beautiful, much less in the context of love.

    I hate tragedies and being sad 🙁

  4. Cameron Probert Says:

    Hrm… interesting. I haven’t really read Sophie’s Choice, or watch Tsukihime, so I can’t really say much about the material. But it’s an interesting analysis. 🙂

  5. zzzzzzz Says:

    Classicist, try reading contemporary books.

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