In yesterday’s post I talked a lot about Wollstonecraftian feminism and how it pertained to Euphemia, my female main character in Cobault – but what about the boys?
Algernon is my male main character, and I’ve realised that he represents an unknown quantity, contradictions, in a world where everything has to be quantified, documented and labeled. He has no family, and even his surname, Black, is a lack thereof. He’s working class, but he’s literate. He’s naive, but he has this all-encompassing power. A talent that even, itself, has no name.
Together with the group of lower class boys Algernon befriends, they are that educated poor who refuse to play the part “assigned to them by nature”. They choose to defy their place in the societal structure, and work towards becoming successful on their own intellectual merits.
And to highlight that defiance, there is a group of unpleasant, spoiled rich boys who are part of a club, “Academy for Academics”, which seeks to rid the institution of these lower class and female students who sully what they believe the Academy should stand for. They, alongside society itself and the sprawling influence of the patriarchal company, Endicott, are the villans of the novel.
The ringleader of “Academy for Academics”, Arkhaven, is a character I’m hoping to develop properly enough to illustrate his complexities. His motives are at once terrible and understandable; he only wants to prove himself to an abusive father, and he hates all women as a reflection of his feelings towards his victimised and weak mother. Rage, violence and desire have become twisted together in his mind and, as the abused becomes the abuser, he terrorises prostitutes. He’s the sort of person you can see becoming a serial killer, Jack the Ripper style.
Arkhaven’s cronies are his peers, other boys from influential families, over whom he’s in control and is masterful at manipulating. They all share the same belief in the inherent superiority of the wealthy class, and the feeling that women and the lower classes need to be kept in their respective subjugated places in society. They try to enforce this, feeling like martyrs to the cause of maintaining the reputation of their class and the patriarchal system.
Their usual victims are lower class boys and girls, but then they’re faced with Euphemia. As a girl from high society, she presents even more of an affront. She’s one of them, throwing the system on its head; as the most threatening Other is the Other that looks like the Self. Confronted with this threat, Arkhaven becomes obsessed with destroying her.
I’m at the stage in my re-writing when I’m still building up a lot of this conflict. In my first writing of it I glossed over far too much and simplified things that shouldn’t have been simplified. I also rushed into the story at break-neck speed, so I’m currently trying to pace the whole story much more sensibly. But as the first draft was in fact a NaNoWriMo novel, I guess that’s only to be expected.
I’m really glad I’m taking the time to fully explore what I’m trying to get at through writing Cobault. These recent posts have been helping me focus and refine my vision of the novel. However, I also just need to get stuck into continuing to re-write. There’s only so much research you can do before the research itself actually hinders the writing process!