The question, because it is a question, came to mind when I was mulling over some reader comments about a character, and trying to suss out motivations and what drove him. Something motivates him, otherwise he’d be dead twice over. But I’m not sure he knows, which makes character development tricky. What is his reason for living? Well, his faith takes a dim view of suicide unless it is for very, very specific reasons, but “you’re not allowed to kill yourself” doesn’t fit his personality, at least not at the moment.
Pig-headed determination can be a heck of a motivator, especially when linked with, “I’ll show him/them!” People who live decades after doctors told them to go home and die, military personnel and other warriors who survive terrible odds out of pure spite (often tied in with getting even, or avenging someone else.) Those are both examples, as are the people who keep going out of duty. I’ve met one person like that, and she was . . . different. She could not let herself die, or even step back and rest, until she got four children raised and out into the world on their own feet. They were not her children, but she’d promised to take care of them no matter what, and so she was. As far as I could tell, she wasn’t a believer in any religion. it didn’t matter. She’d given her word, and had taken up the duty, and was raising the children as best she could. I was in awe, and somewhat uncomfortable. I suspect that when the last child became independent, she would follow her late husband and other family members to the grave.
This character, though . . . duty fits, duties that he’s been assigned by his culture, and those he’s taken upon himself. He has faith, strong faith, but that’s not his only motivator, nor will it keep him going through the years. He’s not called to be clergy. He lacks hope, other than hope for a better life in the next world. He plans for survival, but it’s just that – survival. Nothing more, not where he will be in X years, not looking for a wife or making close friends.
People can live without hope, perhaps, if they have a strong enough goal and personality. Some thinkers say that hope is the cruelest thing, because it raises expectations and leads to dreams of better times and happiness that are then destroyed, crushing the spirit. That’s true. We’ve all had hopes dashed, be they hopes for neat Christmas stuff, or hopes that the dream date will be as good as anticipated, or that the cute guy will accept an invitation to the dance, or that a scenario will turn out right and the world will improve. And it doesn’t happen. Prayers are not answered in the way we want, the cute guy turns out to be a cad (or has a family commitment that night), the band cancels the concert, the politician isn’t as advertised, the serpent lied about the taste of the fruit . . . Hopes collapse, leaving bitterness and ashes behind. Been there, felt that, and it hurts. Duty replaces hope, or wrath and the desire for revenge replace hope, and the person pushes through.
That doesn’t work in this instance. The character has to grow, to enjoy life and to look ahead to a future with hope and dreams in it. How to get him there . . . I’m still grappling with, in part because it means looking inside me and asking some questions.
I hate it when characters make me do that. 🙂