¡Character Assassination!

Admittedly it sounds more interesting than “Character Analysis,” although I suppose “Character Vivisection” would be more accurate a description … but I think that sounds too cruel.

This week I dissect Hawk Andrews from the eponymous short story “Hawk.”

When I wrote “Hawk,” it was an experimental short story for me. Experimental on two fronts. The first of which is writing in 3rd person limited omniscience. I don’t commonly write outside of 1st person, so for me, it was more of an exercise in point of view. The second experimental facet to “Hawk” was the sordid depravity into which the main character falls. Admittedly, it was surprisingly fun to let this character commit all manner of atrocities. There is, if ever I publish “Hawk” in its entirety, still an undercurrent of humor, albeit dark humor, that I cannot seem to escape.

Hawk is known by the reader to suffer from a schizophrenic break early on – so there is no “surprise-the-main-character-is-really-insane” ending, which I feel is an easy out for some story lines. Knowing full well Hawk suffers this mental illness allowed me to distort his world and explore the features therein.

Paused atop a bridge, the reader is keyed in on one of Hawk’s most dread fears – drowning to death – as he ponders suicide. To me, this is critical to his mindset. He’s clearly in pain enough to want to end his own life, yet rational enough to consider it ill-advised. All the while his thoughts and actions are increasingly taken over by his monochromatic mirror image.

I don’t see Hawk as evil despite his murderous tendencies. His delusions are in clear control. In the mirror world (yes, it’s somewhat of an homage to Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”) everything is opposite. He lives in color, yet stares into the mirror at his bathroom sink long into the night when colors are blotted out from the world. His counterpart in the mirror is backward to him – left-handed, overt, menacing. The world the stranger (his reflection) inhabits is in fact the opposite of the world in which Hawk lives. It is only in his desire to stop suffering at the hands of this mirror doppleganger that he feels compelled to kill. The insatiable brutality in which he kills his victims only serves to fuel his tormentor.

Hawk’s madness is irreparable. We get the truest image of the mirror-as-window in his eyes when he takes the mirror down, but the reflection within remains unchanged. He is forever lost at this point. The break between reality is too severe. Likewise, we later find Hawk facing trial for his crimes after undergoing psychiatric treatment. But the treatment is failed. He sits in a stupor and awaits the appearance of a topless dancer he fancied at the height of his killing spree.

We have Hawk, mad, driven, ruined. There is no redemption, no moral. He is compelled to serve his master-reflection. It is likely I will never publish “Hawk.” The brutality and misogyny are detailed, and there are so few venues for short fiction publication. I can write The New Yorker off without a doubt. Though truth be told, I have only queried two publications for “Hawk.” In all likelihood, I will keep it shelved; publication under a pseudonym at this point would be pointless, unless I also change the title.

Looking forward, however, I have new use for Hawk. Still mad, still lethal and rapacious, I see him fitting well into a tale I have in mind about a different place in time. As I said above, Hawk is not evil; merely a stop on the continuum of good and evil – the continuum I like to explore in most of my writing.

To that end, and to my knowledge, only two of my readers have actually read “Hawk,” and I invite their take on the character as well. (Should any former classmates stumble across my blog, your comments are equally welcome too. Just remember: I kept all of your stories – so play nice!)

Next week, a look at either Charlie or Morgan Blackwell from my first novel, Perfect Solution.


About waronliteracy

Storyteller, teacher, author of "Perfect Solution" and "Dire Requisite," I stand alone in the aftermath of the war on literacy, looking for other survivors ... we are out there ... somewhere.
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