Thursday, March 24, 2011

Omar Is Taking His Evening Constitutional, Yo

If at any time besides its treatment of Templeton The Wire flirts with caricature, it does so in the character of Omar Little. Yet no one would ever reduce such a monumental culmination of literary tradition, satire, and basic human desire for mythos as Omar Little by defining him as mere caricature. Little is not Dickensian. Nor is he a character in the style of Thackeray, Eliot, Trollope, or any of the most famous serialists. If he must be compared to characters in the Victorian times, he most closely resembles a creation of a Brontë; he could have come from Wuthering Heights.

The reason that Little so closely resembles a Brontë hero is of course that the estimable sisters were often not writing in the Victorian paradigm at all, but rather in the Gothic. Their heroes were Byronic, and Lord Byron himself took his cue from the ancient tradition of Romance, culminating in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, but originating even further back. Little would not be out of place in Faerie Queene, and even less so in Don Quixote: an errant knight wielding a sword, facing dragons, no man his master. The character builds on the tradition of the quintessential Robin Hood and borrows qualities from many of the great chivalric romances of previous centuries. Meanwhile there is an element of the fay, mirroring Robin Hood’s own predecessor—Goodfellow or Puck—and prefiguring later dashing, mysterious heroes who also play the part of the fop, as in The Scarlet Pimpernel.

As previously mentioned, Little also has the flavor of the Gothic: brooding, hell-bent on revenge. Indeed, there is a darkness to the character that would not suit Sir Gawain, but does not seem out of place in a Don Juan or Brontë’s Heathcliffe. Little is in fact an amalgamation of these traditions, an essential archetype.

The Wire re-imagined as a Victorian novel. This is the coolest thing since Adam Bertocci's retelling of The Big Lebowski in the form of a Shakespeare play. I think this makes me a gigantic dork, but I don't care.