Thursday, November 3

Can people change?

Since Noah's been away, I've only been able to speak with him for about 30 minutes, and I've gotten letters twice. He's been away since September 28. Perhaps because I've lost my sounding board, my patience in a lot of areas has plummeted. While I was reading Stella Duffy's Theodora, I loved the setting and the story intrigued—an actress/prostitute winds up as empress in ancient Rome—but Theodora herself really got on my nerves.

I'm not sure what was historically researched and what was purely Duffy's imagined characterization of Theodora, but the part of the book about Theodora's Christian conversion and subsequent life actually made me angry. I won't pretend to know anything about the Christological and theological issues of the time—even Wikipedia didn't rightly clear it up for me—but I will say that Theodora didn't think or act much different after her conversion than she did before. She even said herself, "Some might say I haven't changed at all."

Ultimately the book was about the woman, not specifically about her faith journey, but I couldn't get over the fact that her professed conversion yielded no real or lasting changes in her personality or worldview. I see so much today people who profess one belief or creed or political ideology but in short order are revealed as frauds. I had trouble liking Theodora much after that.

David Foster Wallace once drew an analogy about the absurdity of writing an ethics book based on what people actually did instead of what they ought to do, a succinct analysis of the human condition I'd say Thing is, if we can't hope to be changed for the better by grappling with ethics, or faith, or political ideology, then what's the point?

What I took away from Theodora—quite contrary to the author's intentions, I'd bet—was the disappointing truth that very few people are truly willing to change.

I'll be compensated for this review by BlogHer, but the opinions are purely my own. Obviously. Because I'm sure the Penguin Group would prefer I like their characters. Find further discussion here.


Anonymous said...

so true.

Natalie said...

Oh, bummer. Speaking from my own life, I changed a great deal once I let the Holy Spirit into my life (for reals...not like when I was 11). Now, change is a funny thing because it's not like I'm suddenly speaking in tongues or look all that different. But my attitudes, how I (try to) weigh my words, how often I cry (cheese and rice, I am a crybaby these days), etc....I've been shaped. And most can see that. It's a great thing. So it's a shame your book didn't capture that. It's something to see. :)

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