This One's For You Dr. J

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From Swann's "Whodunnit?  Or, Who Did What?  'Benito Cereno' and the Politics of Narrative Structure" in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:

By Symons "The...doubt about whether a particular character is hero or villain is an essential feature of the crime story, and Vidocq embodied it in his own person" (319).

When I read this, I thought about the comment made in class dissing my favorite movie, Pirates of the Caribbean.  It is too painful to recall, however, I have related two of my blogs this week to the WONDERFUL movies because they MERIT being discussed and watched multiple times. 

Anyway, with that off my chest I can precede to my point.  When I read this, I thought, "Like Captain Jack Sparrow!"  One of the most alluring things about Pirates of the Caribbean is the ambiguous nature of Captain Jack Sparrow.  One minute, especiallly in the first one, you think that he's a bad guy, the next the nicest character of them all.  The truth is, Captain Jack Sparrow wavers throughout the whole trilogy.  Recall that in the first one he refuses to help William Turner until he learns his name.  We later find out that he only interacts with Will in order to lift the curse with Will's blood because he is the son of Bootstrap Bill Turner.

Captain Jack Sparrow does, however, help Will and Elizabeth throughout the first and second movie.  His true intentions are partially known, but not fully.  We have to question if he's helping because he's a truly nice guy or if he's merely helping because he sees profit in it for himself.  This tension carries through all the movies and is resolved in the final (at least for now for Pirates 4 is on the way) scene when Sparrow puts the dagger into Turner's hand to stab Davy Jones's heart.  Sparrow wanted to sail the seas forever.  To stab the heart meant an eternity of his dream.  (In a way, it would also negate his need to go searching for the Fountain of Youth, the objective of the next film.)  Instead of going for what he wanted, he saved his dying friend, leaving him with nothing except for the feeling that he did the right thing and proved where his alliance was.

This mystery would then, according to Symons, make the trilogy a "crime story" for us, as the viewers, have this character who we are constantly forced to review and rereview.  Captain Jack Sparrow is a round character, unlike the rest of them (for the most part).  Commodore Norrington is the other one for he changes and makes decisions similar to Sparrow's.  In fact, I'd like to say that Norrington is actually Sparrow's foil.  He has many of the same traits: he changes sides multiple times, he liked Elizabeth, he is selfish, he has good swordfighting skills, and when it came down to it, he gave what he valued most to save a friend, his life.

What do you think? 


My other blog that mentions Pirates of the Caribbean.   


I've only seen the first Pirates movie, so I can't speak for how Jack Sparrow might develop in the later films, but the lovable scoundrel is a popular type (Rhett Butler, Han Solo, Fitzwilliam Darcy). Of course, to make Jack completely redeemed (and comprehensible) would rob the character of much of his effectiveness.

Greta Carroll said:

Angela, I can definitely see what you are saying. Jack does vacillate back and forth; one never knows what he is going to do. Another example of someone who could be seen this way I think is Josie O’Meara from The House of Splendid Isolation (which we are reading in Advanced Literary Study). She is a female, unlike the other examples presented, but I think she might still qualify as one. Think about it, she drives her husband to the brink of insanity as she forces his brother to leave and controls him in other ways. Yet, at the same time she is understanding when he financially ruins them with his gambling. She seems to do something so that her pregnancy is terminated. She certainly speaks her mind, and tells McGreevy what she thinks of him and his actions. In some ways, she is almost a villain to herself, preventing her own happiness. But then again, maybe she doesn’t count as quite the same thing; maybe she is a different archetype, maybe she is more of a spirited woman? What do you think, Angela?

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