Monday, January 25, 2010

Nell's Big Theme by Susanne Lakin

Please welcome Susanne Lakin once again as she concludes her January themed visits. She's been giving us insights on themes and showing us application here on Manuscript Mondays.

Nell's Big Theme
By Susanne Lakin

Nell is an amazing movie. The plot itself is wonderful and enough to drive the story. But we see again another story where there is a theme underlying the plot. It's not just about a girl who has spent most of her life in isolation and can’t communicate. In Nell, we are put face-to-face with the question about our place in the world—what is considered normal and sane in the way we live our lives. Two forces fight over Nell—those who want to let her keep her freedom, and others in "authority," who insist Nell cannot care for herself, that she has to have others tell her what to think, eat, dress, how to act, and live that is not just acceptable, but healthy.

Nell threatens the established norms. Jerry and Paula take her to court, in despair over her fate. To everyone’s shock, Nell actually speaks up—in her strange manner of talking (because her mother, who had a stroke that impaired her speech, raised her with a warped version of English). She presents herself as an intelligent, intuitive person. But, most importantly, she understands the heart of life—what scares us, what moves us. Nell tells us that she knows small things--her world is small. And that her listeners know big things, there in the city, in the big world. Yet, she sees how no one will look each other in the eye. She sees everyone's hunger for connection, for love, and asks why their world hasn't given them either hope, love, or answers. She tells them she knows what it's like to love and to lose those she loves. She makes it clear she is no different than anyone else. But she can accept that those things are part and parcel of life.

In this beautiful, haunting speech, she reveals she knows far more than most of her listeners. She has a wisdom that comes from reflection and true living. She doesn't just live in her world, she embodies it. She puts her opponents to shame with her honesty and compassion--something starkly lacking in those seeking to constrain her "for her own good."

So, what’s the theme? Nell is considered helpless. Society is needed to tell us how to live and function, and we must be a compliant participant in order to not just survive but to enjoy life. Rules=happiness. The theme is that these are falsehoods. That sanity, happiness, functionality have nothing to do with society, but have to do with your heart. That you can throw out every rule that doesn't speak to your heart, because, in the end, those rules will not serve you or anyone else. That you have to face your fear and your pain to get to the raw truth of who you are. And that's too scary for most people, yet Nell, of all people, is there. She embraces her pain and loss in a beautiful acknowledgment that this is life—in all its beauty and despair. She challenges each one of us—can we live so honestly? How's that for a BIG theme?

C. S. Lakin (Susanne Lakin) writes contemporary literary mysteries and allegorical fantasy. She is completing her ninth novel and has had four novels contracted in 2009 for publication. She considers herself somewhat schizophrenic, having two agents and two genres she works in, but it’s always an adventure! When not writing, she earns her living as a professional copy editor and writing coach, always in search of the perfect sentence. For more information about her books, click over to her Web site.

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