Saturday, August 09, 2008

Rites of Passage

Reading about all this senseless violence gives me a chill.  People are capable of such awful things, and there is no sense to be made of it.  Why do people do what they do?  How is it that when presented with identical situations, one person rises to the occasion and another is ruined by it. One person is hardly affected by violence and another is changed forever.  Someone brings violence upon himself and another becomes a victim for no reason at all.

We've talked before on this blog about why readers like mystery novels, and noted that perhaps it's because even if the killer isn't arrested and brought before the law, justice is usually done in the end.  It's more complex than that, I think.  Unlike real life, in a mystery novel, at least we get an answer.  A well written mystery isn't about an act of violence.  The murder is just a device, a catalyst for the real story.  It's the crucible that tests the characters, especially the sleuth.  The story is a exploration of the human psyche, and if it's done well, it can give the reader a real insight into human nature.  And as a bonus, there is a resolution.  We know why he done it.

My husband and I often wax philosophical about why this shoot-em-up mentality is so prevalent in our society, and we've come up with the theory that it's partially because young men no longer have any sort of rite of passage.  They don't have to undergo an ordeal in order to join the society of men, like Native American youngsters did, or Australian Aborigines.  Nobody teaches boys what it is to be a man any more, so they use television and movies as guidance, and make up their own initiation ordeals, like gang initiations.  Or maybe they join the Marines.   Otherwise it's like Lord of the Flies. Now, I never was a boy, and I can only make observations from the outside, but I'd be very interested to hear how a man decides he's a man.  My husband tells me that men are very aware of the opinions of other men, and exquisitely aware of the pecking order in any group. 

In any event, I've wondered more than once if it would be useful to reinstate the Vision Quest for young men.

And on a more cheerful note - A woman walks into a bookstore, and the next thing you know, she's writing a mystery. Tomorrow's guest blogger, my friend and mystery afficianado extraordinaire Judy Starbuck, enlightens us about the mystery writer's rite of passage.

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