November 20th, 2012 | 7 comments »
Posted by Molly Keener
Barry Fairbrother’s death set off a chain reaction of events in Pagford. How much, if any, of the resulting events do you suppose would have happened if Barry had not died?
Category: Discussion, The Casual Vacancy
I agree with Fred in the first post, and happen to believe that some of the events – Howard’s heart attack, Samantha’s shop closing, Krystal and Fats’s relationship, Andrew’s drifting from Fats, Gavin and Kay’s breakup – would have happened regardless, albeit possibly on different time frames. As for Robbie’s fate, I’m less certain…although unless Krystal managed to find a way out for him, or he eventually had his own champion, as Krystal had in Barry, I don’t think it would have been good. Accusations about Parminder’s role Nana Cath’s death might have been reasoned by Barry, assuming he was aware of Krystal’s misaligned judgement.
The character whose alternate outcome I’ve speculated about most is Sukhvinder’s. Her friendship with Gaia, and employment at the Copper Kettle, likely would have progressed, and I like to think she would have continued to gain confidence. But would her cutting have been discovered? Not sure.
This question really resonated with me. In my own life I’ve had simple, appearingly harmless, actions have devastating affects on my personal life. I look back and realize there was no way to see how that simple action would ultimately lead to the chaos that followed.
One would not think Barry’s death would set off such a lethal chain, but it does. Would those events have happened had Barry lived? That’s another book!
It is interesting to think about the invisible strings that connect such seemingly unrelated people and events.
Depending upon how you answer Molly’s question, then one is tempted to ask, “Was Barry a Saint or an enabler?” We can argue that he truly believed in the goodness and potential for success in all people regardless of their origins or circumstances. As such, he was making a difference in the lives if many people, especially Krystal. His death put an end to that and the beneficiaries of his efforts were cast adrift to become victims of their circumstances. On the other hand, we can make the argument that research shows that very few people who live in underprivileged situations improve their lot in life, and that pouring massive quantities of resources into their lives only serve to perpetuate the problems, and Barry was only prolonging the inevitable by putting BandAids on situations that could not be fixed.
Couldn’t he be both? Saint to Krystal, in whom he individually invested and possibly would have helped out of her situation, but inadvertently an enabler to many more in the Fields impacted by his actions on the parish council. Or is that the two-edged sword anyone carries when working with disadvantaged communities: some are helped, some are not?
I think you are correct Molly- a little bit of both. I think that is unavoidable, and that is the question we struggle with as a nation. We have a plethora if social programs for which we are borrowing money from China to fund. We help some people learn to fish, and others we just keep giving them fish.
This is a bit like asking “What if Arcduke Franz Ferdinand had not been assassinated? Would we still have had WWI?” Certainly not as it happened- the Somme, Verdun, Passchendale, etc. However, the way the European poets were poised for war, some type of conflict was inevitable. The only questions were where, when, and how big. In the same way, the outcomes for Robbie and Krystal are as inevitable as I’d future fighting in the Middle East. Perhaps Miles pessimistic statements about taking the children away at birth were more humane than we would like to recognize.
If you ascribe to chaos theory, which recognizes the billions of small events that contribute to every outcome, then very few of the events would have been the same. No election. No school assembly. Gavin leaves Mary alone. Krystal has some emotional support.
On the other hand, as Heraclitus observed, character is destiny (or in modern terms, what comes around goes around). As such, I fear that many of the eventual outcomes would have been the similar or the same- the heart attack, the breakup, perhaps even Robbie’s fate.
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