Stories with “Be-er” Main Characters

STORIES that have Approach of Be-er:

A Doll’s House: As a child in her father’s home, and as a wife in her husband’s home, Nora does everything in her power to adapt herself to her environment-even to the detriment of her self-esteem and peace of mind:

“It’s perfectly true, Torvald. When I was at home with Papa he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls. And when I came to live with you…I was simply transferred from Papa’s hands to yours. You arranged everything according to your taste, and so I got the same tastes as you-or else I pretended to.” (Ibsen, 1879, p. 195)

The Age of Innocence: Newland prefers to internalize his problems instead of resolving them externally. Rather than act to change May into a more enlightened wife, Newland internally acknowledges that she’ll never be an intellectual partner, and resigns himself to living within a boring marriage.

NARRATOR: Archer had gradually reverted to his old inherited ideas about marriage. It was less trouble to conform with tradition. There was no use trying to emancipate a wife who hadn’t the dimmest notion that she was not free.

Amadeus: Salieri prefers to deal with his world indirectly, internally. He manipulates his world. He waits years to get the job of First Kappelmeister. He is willing to flatter; to be self-deprecating. Even with Mozart, in his war with God, he prefers to manipulate those around him rather than challenge Mozart directly. When he has the opportunity to sleep with Constanze, he refuses, preferring to adapt to his new sense of his world. This harkens back to his statements that he always wanted to sleep with his pretty students, but because of his bargain with God, he had to be chaste.

Barefoot in the Park: Paul prefers to adapt himself to his environment:

Mother: I worry about you two. You’re so impulsive. You jump into life. Paul is like me. He looks first.

Corie scathingly remarks to Paul:

Corie: Do you know what you are? You’re a watcher. There are Watchers in this world and there are Do-ers. And the Watchers sit around watching the Do-ers do. Well, tonight you watched and I did.

Being There: Chance accepts any situation he finds himself in; he adapts himself to the environment:

“Chance did what he was told” (Kosinski, 1970, p. 7).

Blade Runner: When Deckard’s picked up by Gaff, he goes along rather than fight; Recruited by Bryant to blade run again, he adapts to the system that walks all over “little people”; When questioning Salome, he pretends to be a petty bureaucrat, fighting and killing her only as a last resort.

Bringing Up Baby: In the opening shot, David is sitting on a scaffold, in perfect imitation of Rodan’s famous “Thinker” sculpture. Although he does quite a bit of protesting, David rarely takes direct action to get what he wants. He quietly accepts Alice’s proclamation that they will have no children. He grudgingly goes along with Susan’s story that his name is David Bone and that he recently suffered a nervous breakdown. When Alice leaves, calling him a butterfly, he simply mutters to himself and lets her go.

Candida: As an example of James Morell’s approach as a be-er, when Eugene Marchbanks announces Candida is better off with himself rather than the clergyman, Morell accepts him as a threat instead of dismissing the poet’s youthful foolishness. He then puts the burden of settling the crisis upon Candida, avoiding handling the matter himself.

Casablanca: Rick allows his club to be an open house for a wide variety of patrons, from refugees to Nazis to Vichy French. Whichever way the political wind blows, Rick will bend with it.

The Client: When there are problems, Reggie prefers to internalize them over trying to resolve them externally. When her husband left, taking the kids, she became an alcoholic; to gain Marcus’ trust, she becomes motherly; when she is verbally attacked and accused of being an alcoholic, she swallows her hurt and doesn’t offer an explanation; when Marcus tries to hitchhike from her house, she waits for him inside; etc.

The Crucible: John would prefer to wait out a problem–hoping it will resolve itself–rather than to take immediate action. An example of this is when he first hears of the young girls in town making accusations of witchcraft:

Proctor: Oh, it is a black mischief.

Elizabeth: I think you must go to Salem, John. I think so. You must tell them it is a fraud.

Proctor: Aye, it is, surely.

Elizabeth: Let you go to Ezekiel Cheever–he knows you well. And tell him what she [Abigail] said to you last week in her uncle’s house. She said it had naught to do with witchcraft, did she not?

Proctor: (in thought) Aye she did, she did.

Elizabeth: God forbid you keep that from the court, John. I think they must be told.

Proctor: (quietly, struggling with his thought) Aye, they must, they must. . . .

Elizabeth: I would go to Salem now, John–let you go tonight.

Proctor: I’ll think on it.

Elizabeth: You cannot keep it, John.

Proctor: I know I cannot keep it. I say I will think on it! (Miller 53)

Four Weddings And A Funeral: Charles prefers to solve problems by changing his mind or adapting to a given situation rather than doing something about it. For example, Charles makes no move to change tables at Lydia and John’s wedding, even after seeing that he will be sitting at a table filled with “Ghosts of girlfriends past;Ó When he is stuck in the closet of Lydia and Bernard’s honeymoon suite, he chooses to quietly adapt to the situation and wait it out, rather than disturb the newlyweds; finally, he almost convinces himself to marry someone he doesn’t love because it is easier for him to pretend it is OK than to tell everybody that the wedding is called off.

The Glass Menagerie: Laura approaches problems by internalizing them. This often paralyzes her–keeping her from being able to do ANYTHING.

The Graduate: Ben is most definitely a ponderer. From the first frame of the film, his preference is clearly to think out situations before taking action.

The Great Gatsby: Nick Carraway deals with personal issues internally — he prefers to adapt himself to his environment:

“I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires…”

Hamlet: Hamlet is a gifted thinker that is incapable of positive action–”the native hue of resolution/Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought” (3.1.92-93).

Harold and Maude: Harold reacts to his mother’s domineering ways by pretending to be dead, instead of fighting her or leaving home; when Maude steals his hearse, he passively lets her drive him home; he modifies his new sports car into a hearse like his old one; etc.

Heavenly Creatures: Reluctant to be in the school photo, Pauline adapts to the situation by hanging her head down rather than running away; Pauline responds to Juliet’s tuberculosis by wishing illness on herself and refusing to eat; when her mother threatens to not let her see Juliet again, Pauline’s initial response is to wish herself dead; she responds to threatening authority figures internally by having them killed by Diello in the 4th World of Borovnia.

Lolita: Humbert prefers to approach his problem internally and adapt himself to his environment (like a chameleon). “Years of secret suffering have taught me superhuman self control” (Nabokov 28). He puts up a romantic front for Charlotte: “Bland American Charlotte frightened me . . . I dared not do anything to spoil the image of me she had set up to adore” (Nabokov 78), and he internalizes and compartmentalizes his lust for Lolita by keeping a detailed diary.

Romeo and Juliet: Romeo’s first preference in approaching a conflict is to adapt himself to the environment, for example, he lacks interest in the (contentious) ” . . . activities of his gang of friends, whom he accompanies only reluctantly to the Capulet feast: ‘I’ll be a candle holder and look on’” (1.4.38) (Paster 258); After making Juliet his wife, he tries to placate Tybalt rather than fight him; and so forth.

Rosemary’s Baby: Rosemary tries to accommodate everyone before herself. She agrees to the dinner invitation with the Castevets, even though she doesn’t want to go. Then she feels obligated, but tells Guy that it’s all right if he doesn’t want to attend. When Rosemary learns she is pregnant, she lets the Castevets push her into giving up a doctor she likes for one they recommend. Even though she is in great pain, she finds a way to adapt to it rather than confront her doctor:

Tiger: You’ve been in pain since November and he (Dr. Sapirstein) isn’t doing anything for you?

Rosemary: He says it’ll stop.

Joan: Why don’t you see another doctor?

Rosemary shakes her head.

Rosemary: He’s very good. He was on “Open End.”

Sula: From childhood, Nel copes with problems internally:

“…the girl became obedient and polite. Any enthusiasms that little Nel showed were calmed by the mother until she drove her daughter’s imagination underground” (Morrison, 1973, p. 18).

When Nel finds Jude and Sula naked in her bedroom, she thinks:

They are not doing that. I am just standing here seeing it, but they are not really doing it…I just stood there seeing it and smiling, because maybe there was some explanation, something important that would make it all right. (Morrison, 1973, p. 105)

After Jude leaves Nel, she winds up her anger into an imaginary gray ball so that she may function.

Unforgiven: Munny has lost the hair-trigger response of his youth, preferring to work problems through peaceably: though taunted by Kid Schofield over his reputation, he lets it slide and tries again to solve the hog problem; provoked by Little Bill in the bar, Munny bides his time:

LITTLE BILL: Well, Mister Hendershot, if I was to call you a no good sonofabitch an’ a liar, an’ if I was to say you shit in your pants on account of a cowardly soul… well, I guess then, you would show me your pistol right quick an’ shoot me dead, ain’t that so?

MUNNY: I guess I might… but like I said, I ain’t armed.

(Peoples, p. 76)

After a kicking by Little Bill, Munny doesn’t even seek revenge; this doesn’t happen until Ned is killed.

Washington Square: When faced with a problem, Catherine’s preference is to solve it internally, as illustrated in a conversation between her father and Aunt Almond:

“‘And, meanwhile, how is Catherine taking it?’ ‘As she takes everything–as a matter of course.’ ‘Doesn’t she make a noise? Hasn’t she made a scene?’ ‘She is not scenic.’” (James 69)

Once her father refuses her lovers’ suit, Catherine contemplates:

The idea of a struggle with her father, of setting up her will against his own, was heavy on her soul, and it kept her quiet, as a great physical weight keeps us motionless. It never entered into her mind to throw her lover off; but from the first she tried to assure herself that there would be a peaceful way out of their difficulty. The assurance was vague, for it contained no element of positive conviction that her father would change his mind. She only had the idea that if she should be very good, the situation would in some mysterious manner improve. To be good she must be patient, outwardly submissive, abstain from judging her father too harshly, and from committing any act of open defiance. (James 81)

Witness: Rachel adapts to the situations she finds herself in: she accepts being detained by Book and taken to his sister’s house:

SAMUEL: But do we have to stay here?

RACHEL: No, we do not. Just for the night.

Rachel accommodates Book’s presence on the farm; she remains in the Amish community, even though she has doubts about her faith; etc.

This entry was posted in Example Stories. Bookmark the permalink.