Thursday, 3 June 2010

Character Connection

Character connection is hosted by IntrovertedJen.
character connection
We all have characters we love. Let's spotlight these fantastic creations! Whether you want to be friends with them or you have a full-blown crush on them, you know you love them and want everyone else to love them too!

Most of you will probably post about how much you love each character, but this is a great place for the more creative ones among you to let go and have fun! Write a love letter to Captain Wentworth. Write yourself into a scene with Anne and Diana. Draw a picture of yourself in Jamie's arms. The possibilities are endless.
Be sure to post the book's title and author, and be very careful not to give away spoilers while talking about how much you love your characters.


Cassandra Mortmain from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is my best fictional friend.

She jumps off from page one, sitting in the kitchen sink writing the first pages of her journal. What I truly love about her is that she grows from the beginning of the book into an older person by the end.

Cassandra is profoundly human, and does not suffer from being too good or too nice – with just the right amount of human selfishness that makes her completely whole.

What I love about her is the strength of her voice, which bounces off the page. I can only imagine what kind of a person she will have grown up into being. I can imagine her now (she would probably be in her late nineties) still writing away in her journal and I wonder what she would be saying?

There was an awful lot you didn’t really get to know about Cassandra. You only really got to see the concerns of a seventeen year old girl – her worries about her family, her relationship with her siblings and finding out what it involved to be in love with someone.
So we never really got to see what she’d be like as a woman, with wider more diverse concerns. As an imaginative and creative young person though I imagine whatever she would have written would have been intelligent and insightful.

Of course, during the time it was set the war with Germany was on the horizon so the future of these characters could possibly have turned pretty grim.

It is interesting, and nice, in a sense that instead of concentrating on the rather more grim subject of the impending war, Smith chose rather to paint a much nicer, more idealistic story full of green grass and romantic castles with towers and moats and eccentric British people.

At the time it was published it was probably a really nice bit of escapism from what must have still been a rather hard period in history – still recovering from the war and all the horrors.

However, I wonder what Cassandra would have got up to during these times. I think she would be the kind of person who would have wanted to get involved and do something – . I don’t think she’d have escaped to the countryside. I can see her writing her war-time diaries sitting in an air raid shelter, or down in the Underground.

But then again, reflecting on this, perhaps that is more from my point of view then Dodie Smith’s. Her husband was a conscientious objector and they lived in the USA during the war years. (Dodie wrote I Capture the Castle during a fit of nostalgia for England) but I can’t imagine Cassandra not doing something during the war. In the end – once the author writes a book the characters become the reader’s own creations – to make of them what they want.

(If you haven’t read the book, I do not recommend reading any further)

I wish I could open up Cassandra’s journal again, a few years after the end of the book and see what she’s up to. What has happened to her since we left her behind – with a bruised, but more matured heart?

Neil and Rose would be in America, would Cassandra perhaps visit them over there? I can see her visiting them but she would miss England I think more then Rose ever would She’s quite romantic – I can’t see her growing out of that and I don’t think she could leave England or her father behind somehow.

Simon – I don’t think Cassandra ever really loved him. It came on all too quickly for her and though she may have believed it was love, to me it felt nothing other then an infatuation. He was her first proper kiss and he was a ‘romantic’ character that fulfilled some expectation in Cassandra’s imagination. Everything she knew about love probably came out of a Jane Austen novel. It was Rose who found the real thing.

I suppose he would have returned to England at some point and married some rich high born lady who would lead him around at the crook of a finger like a lost puppy dog. He’s someone who needs to dote on someone, I think.

Stephen – with the profile of a Greek god I can imagine becoming quite the celebrity in the film industry and London fashion circles. Will he and Cassandra ever ‘get together’ well part of me would like to think so – I think they’re quite perfectly matched. (Plus if he looks anything like Henry Cavill who played him in the movie!)

But then again – I suppose they were young at the time and we all grow up in different directions. Who we are when we’re sweet seventeen is probably quite different to who we find ourselves as later in life. Although, perhaps they would have found themselves in the same circles as each other – and Cassandra mentioned that she used to visit Stephen often when she was in London.

I think temperament wise they are more suited – and since he has moved into films and modelling they will be more within the same social circles. I don’t mean to say that it was social class that separated them at the beginning (although it probably played a slight factor) but had he remained where he was and Cassandra had perused her dreams they would have been going in opposite directions.

Cassandra’s father would have published a new book – and perhaps that would have helped Cassandra meet up with some potential publishers or agents – interested in the daughter of an already-famous author? Or maybe she would have preferred to keep herself anonymous and  be recognised for her own merit?

Would Cassandra have ever felt comfortable in that kind of fancy, fashionable society? I didn’t really get the feeling Cassandra would be half as bothered about a trousseau as her sister was. Spending more time in London though – less time at the castle (a symbol perhaps of her childhood) she would have matured into quite the fashionable lady?

However – in a few years time the second world war would begin so everything would have been put on hold – and the sunny English countryside would no longer be a place for pagan rituals.

The book was set in the 1930’s – I’m going to guess maybe 1933 – not too near the beginning of the war but not far off. So Cassandra would have been 24 years old when the war starts and 30 when it ended.

What would she have seen during those years – how differently would have have grown had the war not come, and the sunny feeling of her journal remained the same? People she loved would have been conscripted – Stephen, her brother most likely. Stephen could I suppose have escaped to the USA and gone to Hollywood – maybe Cassandra would have followed? I’d like to think not. Although it’s feasible to think that perhaps her father would have gone and Topaz too maybe invited by Simon.

I can imagine Neil being part of the war in some active way – can’t quite imagine what part Simon would have played.

I wonder why my mind turns quite instantly to the darker side? Maybe it is because I wouldn’t say that I generally go towards books like I Capture the Castle – these kind of nice, romantic and almost quaint novels. I’m more fascinated with the darker side of things – the second world war, the shadowy parts of people’s characters then sunny reflections of life.

Would Cassandra have had children? For some reason I can imagine her with children – and I can’t. She feels too independent but I think she has a great desire to love and be loved and she is a deeply caring person. I just can’t imagine with who.

I imagine someone – someone who loves to read, who will take an interest in her, take care of her but not impose himself to much on her. Cassandra needs to find an intellectual equal, someone whom she could share her thoughts and passions with – not someone who would wish to confine her. I don’t see her as a fifties housewife. I think she would prefer a more quieter life – somewhere where she could retire but still be a part of society – maybe living on the outer edges where she can observe things rather then always being part of it.

The main reason why I love Cassandra is because I can do this – I can imagine her living a life after I Capture the Castle ends. There was no finished conclusion – she did not fall in love and disappear into the sunset – the ending wasn’t a romantic one – it was a realistic one. Cassandra looked at life as a big romance story but found this wasn’t the case and she accepted that with great maturity.

She lives on after the book ends – Cassandra herself has perhaps died of old age by now. She would have lived a fulfilling life and been happy - (I do not see her as some tragic, artistic depressed writer – she might have sapped up her family’s troubles as her own but I don’t think she was destined to be unhappy.)

Whatever would have happened to her, something would have – she’s a character that lives on and that’s what I love about Cassandra Mortmain.


  1. Welcome to Character Connection!

    Wonderful post, Fiona. I love the different scenarios you imagined for her and would love to chip in with my own ideas, but that would make my comment as long as your post! I really think you're spot-on. I really love how you've mentioned this thing about characters going on after the story ends. I truly had not thought of it before, but I think that's what helps them become real to me, when I can do exactly what you just did and imagine their whole life and wonder what would happen.

  2. I really like this post! I agree that I can see Cassandra and Stephen as a romantic pairing.

  3. Fiona, I'm so glad you chose Cassandra as your Character Connection this week! I know how much you love this book, so that makes this post so powerful. I love especially how you thought of so many different ways for her life to turn out--I love being able to imagine about characters!

  4. JG, I'd be happy to read your ideas about what would happen afterwards even if you went on for as long as me. HEHE I got a bit carried away.

    Oh I meant to say - according to the screenwriter for the movie version - Dodie was offered about half a million dollars or something preposterous to change the ending of the book so it'd be happy. (And they didn't choose it the way I'd have chosen either!) and she didn't change it for that amount of money. She stuck by her characters. I think that's absolutely fantastic.

    Liz, I'm glad you agree with me too - Stephen (book Stephen first, film Stephen second hehe) is probably my book-crush. I fell in love with him.

  5. Thanks Jess! Oh I keep thinking of other things I wish I'd said now too. Blast. Hehe!

  6. +JMJ+

    I like your idea that once the characters are on the page, they are no longer just the writer's, but also the reader's! I've written some fiction of my own (just private stuff, for friends) and I know that the biggest thrill was hearing them discuss what would have happened to the characters after I had ended each story, because it meant that the characters had become real for them! =)

  7. Oh, how I love Cassandra! And I'm glad I'm not the only one who imagines what a fictional character might have been doing during WWI or WWII.



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