Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday's Children: Deja Vu

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Inspired by deja vu.

Odysseus' old Nursemaid, Euryclea, recognizes him while washing his feet (Source

Ever read a scene in a book and smile because you feel like you've read it before?

Ever read a scene in a book and smile because you feel like you've read it before?

It's called deja vu.

The final 12 books of the Odyssey are PACKED with deja vus. Odysseus lands on his island of Ithaca after 20 years abroad. He is, of course, disguised as a beggar. As he encounters the people on the island — the goddess Athena, his old swineherd, his grown-up son Telemachus, his crusty old dog Argus, his Nursemaid Euryclea, the evil suitors, and eventually, his wife Penelope — he experiences deja vu.

Each time he meets one of them, he reveals his true identity in a different way. Athena sees through him right away. He tests the swineherd's loyalty before revealing his secret and his plan. He has dinner with Telemachus, first as a stanger, then as his father. Argus recognizes his scent, bounds up to him, then dies from the excitement. Euryclea recognizes his scar while washing his feet. The suitors are shocked when he reveals himself—and then slaughters them. Penelope finally accepts him as Odysseus when his reveals a secret only the two of them know.

I LOVE deja vus. Not only do they make me smile, they show how a character has changed (or not changed). They can show that people get themselves in the same situations, over and over… sometimes to comedic (or tragic) effect. But mostly, they show that people have grown up. They've learned something from the first time. And maybe now that they have a second chance… they'll do things differently.

Odysseus changes a ton in those 12 books. From his encounter with Athena to his reunion with his love Penelope, he goes from meek--> cautious--> tricky--> determined--> heroic--> caring. Deja vus helped make this transformation clear.

Do you ever use deja vus in your work?

Do you ever use deja vus in your work?

(Hehe. Coudn't resist.)

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