Monday, March 16, 2015
In defense of Hector/Helen

WARNING: This post is full of spoilers. So if you haven’t read my book and intend to at some point, you may want to skip this.

The character Hector/Helen in my novel ELYSIUM seems to be the most misunderstood. To understand this character it is important to see him/her not through a single “iteration,” but throughout the novel. English classes tend to teach that creative writing should be read like a puzzle with symbols to be interpreted, each image representing some larger whole. A whole thesis could be written on the fallacy of this kind of thinking.

Hector/Helen as a trans person in the mental hospital is where some people tend to trip. The computer system has landed Helen smack into Hector’s body. But that’s not his/her problem. His problem is that his/her mother has died and s/he lost his mind to grief. Spoken plainly, s/he is crazy. Seeing Hector dressed outragousy and unshaven (no razors allowed in a mental hospital for obvious reasons), ask yourself, did you see him/her? Did you really see Hector/Helen? How did that make you feel? How did you think Hector/Helen wanted you to feel when you saw him/her?

Hector tends to behave with stereotypical mannerisms as a gay man early in the book. Helen’s demeanor early in the book tends to be flighty as well. Hector/Helen wants to, almost begs to be seen. S/He’s a flirt, an attention seeker. S/He lives his life on the surface, but underneath it all s/he wants to be seen—s/he wants to be loved. Read past the surface. Make no mistake, Hector/Helen knows what s/he’s doing. Hector/Helen understands how to USE stereotypes to get what s/he wants, a subtle understanding of how a person may live their life.

Hector is not all trans people, all homosexuals, all men, all women, all Latinos, all people with mental health issues. Hector is a person all unto himself. Hector is Hector. Helen is Helen. They are the same person. But s/he is not ALL people. (This also reminds me of what Chimamanda Adichie had to say in her TED talk The Danger of a Single Story.) Our gender, our sexuality, our outward appearance, our reactions to the forces of life that flow around us, are only a PART of who we are. There is more down deep beyond all that, something more essential.

A reader can take away from a novel whatever they want, and I realize that much of this discussion about my book has said that its about gender. But as for me, I want to say that ELYSIUM is not about males or females, children or adults, or any of the markers that we use in this world to outwardly define ourselves. It is about what is left behind when this flesh goes away. It’s about what’s underneath it all.

If he had remained for a moment longer, he would have heard the answer, “Because you saw the real me.”
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*REPAIRS COMPLETE*

What Adrian saw—and always saw—was his friend. Not the woman. Not the man. But his friend. He saw passed all the surface-y stuff, saw passed all the bullshit, and saw the person. And Hector/Helen knew that. Cherished that. Loved that. Hector soaked it in like perfume.

So if you read Hector/Helen being seen by Adrian for his/her gender as what was pivotal to her character becoming more whole, I dare say that you may have missed the entire point of the book.

 

Posted by Jenn on 03/16 at 01:00 PM
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Category: Writing

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