Bleach 253. Obsession is a tragic flaw

Did you notice that in Bleach most tragic characters are people with an obsession?
They are invariably powerful, but unhappy, and they invariably lose.
And they are generally negative characters.

The powerful positive characters on the other hand, Ichigo, his friends, the featured Shinigami, have ideals or abstract set of rules, but not obsessions.

What is the difference between what I call ‘obsessions’ and ‘ideals’?
Well, not the psychic intensity, but the nature of the object. The degree of abstraction of that which makes the object of one’s obsession / ideal.
Tragic / negative characters’ obsession is always about something concrete, e.g. they want to be on top the power pyramid, they seek a certain revenge, or they they follow a certain person. Most recent example: Muramasa’s obsession to come together with Kouga again.

By contrast, positive characters’ drive is more generally formulated, more abstract, e.g. help their friends, defend the family’s honor, enjoy strength, fighting, defend a certain abstract order.
These people generally do not lose. And are generally happier, or at least less despondent.

The explanation lies in that they can “let go” of any concrete element when letting it go seems the reasonable thing to do.

Hanging on to a more abstract purpose in life is an advantage from an evolutionary perspective. While the obsessive characters tie their lives to a concrete element, their lives shatter with the destruction of that element. Most recent example: Kouga unequivocally rejects Muramasa. Then Muramasa painfully loses his identity and sanity, and becomes a hollow. Next thing we’ll know, he dies. People with more abstract ideals can carry on more easily, because concrete elements are more perishable than more abstract elements. Ideas, types, theories, abstract things, are more resilient than tokens. People with abstract ideals only  hook provisionally to concrete elements. So the meaning of their lives is not utterly ruined with their destruction.

The same motif is exploited in certain chapters from the lives of otherwise positive characters. Recall Byakyua’s determination (obsession) over the concrete event of Rukia’s execution? That made him a negative character at that point. But then he let go. Or recall Renji’s obsession with defeating his master? That made him tragic then. He was simply lucky to survive the fight, and then he had enough of what it takes to let go.

The Catholic conception of wedding comes to mind as a possible objection, i.e the norm of forever tying oneself to a concrete element. But that’s not a problem: in that conception the spouses are not supposed to make ‘ their purpose in life’ out of each other.


~ by ionsterpan on January 13, 2010.

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