April 23, 2013

Tabula Rasa = T: Blogging from A to Z

Time for T!

When pondering T literary devices, the first one that popped in my head was theme. But I really wanted this month to be about avoiding the obvious choices.

So when I happened upon tabula rasa, I was intrigued.

Frankenstein Painting   By Blaz
Source
Tabula Rasa
Latin, "erased tablet": The term used in Enlightenment philosophy for the idea that humanity is born completely innocent, without any initial predispositions, attitudes, or beliefs. Accordingly, no natural state of humanity exists, but instead, humanity is infinitely malleable. The newborn child is thus a "blank slate" on which experiences and education will write his or her future personality and beliefs. The idea is influential in the philosophical writings of Locke, Rousseau, and Wollstonecraft, but it also influences literary fiction such as Frankenstein, in which the monster's account of his experiences after his initial creation characterize him as an innocent tabula rasa(source)

After reading this, I had two immediate thoughts.

One, as a writer, we create characters from a blank slate. We give them experiences and backgrounds to help form who we want them to be. Every character we create is our own form of Frankenstein. No matter what type of character, we start with a blank piece of paper--or tabula rasa--and mold personality, life experience, and other factors into a character readers can care about.

Second, although I agree that humanity is born innocent, I do not believe newborns are blank slates. As the mother of three children, I was amazed at how much of their personality I saw in the newborn phase: easily frustrated, happy go lucky, temperamental, and so on. Right from the womb! The same two people are raising three kids, and yet they couldn't be more different if they tried. Same parents, same socioeconomic status, same teachings. Different kids.

But since philosophers were mentioned, I had a deep thought (when I have them, by God I'm sharing them! *winks*)... can even our characters be blank slates? They are, after all, influenced by us. Hmmmm.

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4 comments:

Carrie Butler said...

Very interesting, Tia! :)

michelle said...

I love this phrase. When I was studying to become a teacher, we were always reminded that a child's mind is a blank slate...
Teachers alter that by imparting knowledge...

Writer In Transit

Nancy Jardine said...

I have to agree with you that I believe that the moment of birth is NOT the blank slate time. I think influence happens before that. The idea about our characters being a blank slate I'm inclined to almost go with- except we authors have a tendency ( albeit not a conscious inbe) to 'imbue' our characters with characteristics/ traits of people we personally know or know of. So in that way they're not 'brand new'. Nancy at Welcome to she said, he said

Lynda R Young said...

Oh, I like this line of thought. I have to agree that even our characters don't start with a blank slate precisely because their creators (us, the writers) don't have a blank slate.