Becoming Bethany

Observations on becoming and being

Month: May, 2008


This was the final paper for my Literature: Autobiography class this semester. It is written according to the guidelines of the “This I Believe” project.

I believe in words.

My mother tells me that when I first learned how to talk I would only say the end of words. Watermelon became “lon-lon”. Maybe this has to do with the fact that I was an American child learning to speak English in Jamaica. Rather than choose the American or Jamaican pronunciation, I made up my own way. My father also tells me a story about when I was first learning to use words. I was two years old and playing with some little boys of the same age. My father was watching us in the front yard when a red car parked in front of our house. My little friends and I were very amused. The little boys started making car sounds–“brrrrrmmmm”, “beep-beep”. I stood beside them saying things like “look, it’s a car”, “pretty car”.
I was four years old when I discovered that words can be given to others without actually saying them. Books. My favorite book was about a wig on a pig. There was another book about a boy flying a kite. The book had a line that went something like, “I fly a kite.” I read it aloud as, “He flies a kite.” My teacher kept insisting that I was reading it wrong. I kept insisting that the story wasn’t about me so of course I wasn’t flying the kite. The first time that I wrote my own story (which was about a ladybug) I was amazed by the fact that other people would read it and know just what I was saying. Words on a page took on an almost magical quality. Books became my portal to other worlds.
I was eleven years old when I tried to speak using words different from my own. It was so extraordinary when “naan” started connoting “bread” to me. I have since studied three other languages and each time I begin to recognize the meaning of a word, I get a chill. How do foreign sounds suddenly import deep meaning to me? It is the magic of words that I can (with practice) communicate with a person whose every word used to be strange to me.
Now, in college, I have dedicated four years to studying words. They have become no less mysterious to me, but all the more powerful. I have come across sayings like, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” And “Your words are like honey on my lips.” And “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. How can words fight, taste sweet, and live? I think it is because words are shared among people, but at the same time live a life of their own. Think about it, long after an author dies, his words continue to affect us. It is another magic of words—they can live forever.


Prince Caspian the film: Not quite Lewis

So the film has been only been out for three days but it is already being highly debated. Some are saying that it is much better than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, while others say it is even further from Lewis’ original vision. Here are my two cents:

Warning: Spoilers

I think that it is a better film than LWW. The special/visual effects were MUCH better. The mythical creatures were more interesting. The land of Narnia felt…bigger. I believed in the magic a little more. And it was more fun to watch.

But I think the story was severely lacking. The characters (which I think is Lewis’ strength in storytelling) were lacking motivation. I didn’t really believe that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were once Kings and Queens of Narnia (even though we were reminded of the fact, often). The introduced conflict between Peter and Caspian felt petty. Much too petty for kings. More like two school boys fighting over the alpha male position. Susan spent a lot of the movie scowling rather than living up to her reputation of gentleness. I liked Edmund and Lucy though. They were the only ones who seemed to have grown from their years of reigning. I just didn’t believe that the characters were really fighting for the name of Aslan and restoring Old Narnia. Peter and Caspian, especially, seemed to just be fighting to prove something to themselves (or maybe each other).

There were too many battle scenes (esp. for a PG movie!) and most just felt like excuses to show off cool CGI (which was definitely cool). I want a pet Griffin now! But I don’t think that’s the point of Lewis’ writing. The whole movie was really interesting to see but it wasn’t Lewis. And I really like Lewis. I wanted to feel like he was telling me the story. Instead I felt like Hollywood was telling me a story (which they were). And they tell me a lot of stories. I wanted to hear from someone else for once.

Oh, well. Here’s to hoping maybe Michael Apted (director of the upcoming Dawn Treader) will let Lewis tell his story!