Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The League of Literary Gentlemen: Spades and Aces and Stars

I have a confession to make. When it comes to fictional male characters, I have a "type." Every time I plunge into a new story, I home in on the comedic, sometimes roguish, sometimes charming, most often second-or-third-option-for-the-female-lead male character. You know the type: Han Solo, Flynn Rider, Robin Hood, Peter Quill, maybe even Finnick Odair. Usually this "type" has a lot of flaws, maybe even off-putting characteristics. But he also has something else, something more, that gives him that extra edge that sweeps me off my feet and makes me swoon. He's charming and confident, but he also has a heart somewhere deep down.

One of my favorite characters that fits into this type is Captain Carswell Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. His first appearance involves him sitting in a prison cell, due to several crimes he's committed, as he tries to charm his way into the graces and hearts of the prison guards. But over the course of three books and a couple short stories, it's revealed there is much more to Carswell Thorne than heart-throbbing good looks, irresistible charm, and a clever cockiness only a starship captain can possess. Deep down, Thorne is guarding something much more important than the desire for riches or freedom; he's guarding his heart.

"The fist collided with Carswell's eye faster than he'd have thought possible, sending him reeling back against the row of lockers with a resounding clang.
The world tilted and blurred and he thought Kate may have screamed and something clattered on the ground--her portscreen, falling from his own hand--but all he could think was, Spades and aces and stars, that hurt."
-Stars Above 152.

1. He's a captain
From the beginning, Carswell Thorne insists he is a captain, despite his military records stating he's only a cadet. Since he pilots his own ship, The Rampion, he believes people should call him Captain. (Honestly, I think he just likes the sound of it. Captain Kirk, anybody?) Yet he definitely proves himself to be a reliable, albeit risky, captain for his crew. He embodies the qualities of most well-known starship captains throughout literature and pop culture.

"...the same flight instructor who wrote in your official report about your inattentiveness, refusal to take safety precautions seriously, and overconfident attitude that often bordered on...what was the word she used? 'Foolhardy,' I think?" -Kai, Winter 100.
First, as a captain, he is quite skilled and proficient in the art of survival. He can somewhat pilot his ship (or at least enough to not get himself and the entire crew killed). He's pretty handy when it comes to fixing things on the ship. And when he gets himself in a sticky--or should I say sandy?--situation, he has the skills to survive.

In book three, Cress, he and Cress get stranded in the Sahara Desert, and it's only due to his quick-thinking and basic survival training that they make it to civilization. He knows the best way to keep safe in the desert whether its rationing water or creating shoes out of towels for Cress (Cress 136).

"'No shoes?' Thorne massaged his brow. 'All right, fine. I went through survival training in the military. I can figure this out.'" -Cress 135.
Second, Thorne is a practical kind of person. He knows when the odds are against him, and he faces the consequences of his actions without hesitation. When he winds up in prison because of theft, he doesn't beat around the bush; he takes his sentence in stride (Scarlet 30). When he's in the middle of a fight or absolute chaos, he's level-headed, focusing on how to win instead of the anger behind his actions (Scarlet 358). On more than one occasion, he nominates himself as a distraction for the guards because he knows he isn't needed anywhere else (Winter 606). He even takes crazy action when he's temporarily blinded and can't even see to point a gun. This may come across foolish, but it's also very brave, like a captain should be.

"'How many?' Thorne asked.
'Mistress Sybil in front of us,' said Cress, 'and six Lunar guards behind.'
After the slightest hesitation, Thorne nodded. 'I accept those odds.'"
-Cress 478.

Third, he's very loyal to his ship and crew, no matter the circumstances. Time and time again, he admits he doesn't want any other ship, he only wants his Rampion (Scarlet 95; Winter 138). He defends her and tries his best to keep her intact and working. And he does the same for the crew he amasses during the story. He, without hesitation or doubt, jumps into the foray to help keep his crew together.

"'I am Captain Carswell Thorne, the owner of this fine ship, and I will not stand to have her insulted in my presence!'" -Scarlet 156.

2. He's a criminal mastermind
The second thing Carswell always claims he is, other than a captain, is a criminal mastermind.

"'I can see that you're in need of an accomplice,' Thorne said, straightening his jumpsuit. 'And lucky for you, I happen to be a criminal mastermind.'" -Scarlet 36.

From a young age, Carswell has been the little entrepreneur. He knows what he wants (freedom, a ship of his own, to become a captain), so he figures out the easiest and most practical way to get there: swindle his classmates out of their money or math homework (Stars Above 128, 147). This gets him into a few sketchy situations, but he's always one step ahead, strategizing how to get himself out of danger: "In the back of his head, he was already counting up the hours this would save him, the money he could earn with that time [...] Already, he was moving on to the next goal, the next dream, the next obstacle" (Stars Above 157).

As he gets older, Thorne continues this "mastermind" work in order to achieve his goals of owning and captaining a Rampion starship. From deserting the military to committing acts of thievery, Thorne doesn't let an opportunity pass him by (Scarlet 50). This is why he helps Cinder break out of prison and run away: "'This is the biggest unsolved mystery of the third era. There's got to be someone out there offering a reward for finding this princess, right?'" (Scarlet 194).

This kind of mentality is also why Thorne is quick on his feet (Scarlet 105, 107; Winter 361-362). He's able to adapt easily to a situation. When he and Cress are tied up and falling from outer space in a satellite, it's his quick thinking that help them (literally) get out of a bind (Cress 111). When they land in the desert and he's temporarily blinded, he adapts to the situation quickly, learning how to walk across the sand with a makeshift cane (Cress 151). He helps Cinder come up with plans for infiltrating several heavily guarded places. And the moment trouble arises, he thinks of a way to get everybody out of danger. He always has a Plan B.

"'Waste salvage?' Iko asked.
Thorne shrugged. 'I thought it would be good to have a Plan B in case something like this happened.'
After a short silence, in which Iko's internal workings hummed, she said, 'And Plan B is to go to the waste salvage sector?'"
-Winter 192.

Being a criminal mastermind makes Thorne cocky and confident, which can be good or bad (Cress 89). When he's confident, he doesn't hesitate to jump into action and make things happen. It shows his courage. But at the same time, his cockiness overshadows his flaws. There are some things he just can't do. He's not the best when it comes to tech, he's easy to manipulate, and he's distracted by women, fame, and fortune.

"'We found a ransacked house and were identified by the first civilian who spotted us.'
'Yeah, because we're famous." He sang the word with a certain measure of pride.'"
-Cinder and Thorne, Scarlet 344. 

Thorne's criminal mastermind-ness is definitely helpful for his crew, but sometimes his flaws have consequences. One of the biggest is that he doesn't believe himself to be a hero. He can only be a criminal.

"'Yeah, I guess you're right,' he said, squeezing. 'Maybe there's a little bit of a hero in me after all. But... really, Cress. Only a little.'" -Thorne, Cress 245. 

3. He's charming
Another reason for Thorne's cockiness is that he has been blessed with extremely good looks and irresistible charm: "square jaw, bright-blue-eyes, devilish dimples kind of thing" (Scarlet 53). And he uses this to his advantage, like a good criminal mastermind would. He's been wooing ladies since he was in middle school, convincing every girl in the school that he was in love with them (Stars Above 135). Later, he uses the same strategy on every single girl he interacts with (including androids and his own ship), just to see if he can (Cress 270; Winter 598). While this definitely comes across demeaning, he also has this charm to him that can't be easily pushed to the side.

"'We should take her with us.'
'Are you crazy?'
'Crazy in love. She's gorgeous.'
'You're an idiot.'"
-Cinder and Thorne, Scarlet 330. (Aka every conversation these two every have.)

When he's imprisoned in solitary confinement, he immediately switches his mannerisms to woo the prison guards. He becomes "the personification of a well-mannered gentleman, and after six months of such commendable behavior, he'd persuaded the only female guard on rotation to lend him a portscreen" (Scarlet 30). When he meets Cinder, he tries to flirt with her, which hopelessly fails (Scarlet 254). He uses sweet-talking to get him into hangars, high-class buildings, and important wedding celebrations. He uses his charm to get what he needs (Scarlet 188).

"He had the swagger of a man who belonged there. Who belonged anywhere he wished to." -Scarlet 346.

A lot of the time, he uses his charm to make light of a situation. He might not be the optimist, but he's definitely the funny guy. He's one of those characters that always has the most perfectly time lines of dialogue. Throughout the series, Thorne's comments are the best parts of a scene. They give humor to a dire situation and also reveal something deeper about Thorne's character.

"'How are your eyes?' she asked.
'Well, I've been told they're dreamy, but I'll let you decide for yourself.'"
-Cress and Thorne, Cress 169.

If Thorne wasn't full of humor and witty lines, he would probably be a sad and lonely person. He has to use his charm in order to keep going with life. As a thief, he doesn't have much to live for except day-to-day survival. He needs something else to hold on to, and making people laugh or swoon happens to be something he's good at. Sure, he has heart-throbbing good looks and a clever mind full of tricks, but he's searching for something more.

"Thorne had his arm crossed over his chest and a devil-may-care grin, but there was something strained beneath it. She realized the lightness in his tone had also rung false, covering up whatever frustrations were simmering just beneath his cavalier attitude." -Cress 169.
Even when he's in a bad situation--injured and standing precariously on a ledge--he finds a way to crack a joke (Winter 739). Sometimes there is more going on beneath the surface of people with cocky and charming attitudes. And sometimes, humor is necessary to keep morale going in the face of danger and crisis (such as an evil queen trying to take over the entire world).

He's witty and charming and drop-dead gorgeous. He may use it to his advantage, but he also uses it to save himself from the pain of the world.

"'You came for me.'
He beamed, looking for all the world like a selfless, daring hero.
'Don't sound so surprised.' Dropping his cane, he pulled her into a crushing embrace that tore her away from Wolf and lifted her clean of the floor. 'It turns out you are worth a lot of money on the black market.'"
-Cress and Thorne, Cress 350.

4. He cares
Despite being a vagabond, Carswell Thorne has more going inside of him than he would ever admit. He may pretend to be the nonchalant thief that is looking out for only one person ("Me!"), but deep down, Throrne does have a heart. He truly does care about other people.

Cress, who is an amazing hacker and does her research thoroughly, figures this fact out about Thorne from reading all the stories of his criminal activities: "Theft, violence, trespassing, school suspensions, police reprimands. Yet Carswell Thorne, when given a chance to explain, always had a reason. A good reason. A heart-stopping, pulse-racing, awe-inspiring reason" (Cress 29). Later, Thorne admits most of the time he gave a good reason in order to tone down the punishment for the crime. But there is still some truth to his reasons, a glimmer of his heart.

When he was eight years old, he released a tiger from the zoo because "the tiger had looked sad locked up like that" (Cress 28). He defended Kate Fallow from bullies in middle school, getting himself beat up and suspended in the process (Stars Above 150-51). He feels sorry for Cinder when he learns about Peony's death (Scarlet 152).

Over the series, the state of his heart is revealed in small acts that he takes. Most of these don't seem heroic or world-shattering, but each one shows the sacrifices he makes. He doesn't blame people for situations that arise (Cress 124). He shows compassion to people he's just met (Cress 91). He allows Cress to drink the last of his water despite them having no hope of reaching civilization (Cress 205). He takes care of Cress when she is sick, never leaving her side (Cress 236). When Cress is kidnapped, he does whatever it takes to get her back, despite being blind and having to fight his way to get to her (Cress 289). He comforts Cress over the death of her father (Cress 506-07). He rescues Cinder from the water and encourages her when she feels overwhelmed (Winter 351, 464) .He's willing to help Cinder despite the danger and high probability of failure (Winter 139). He volunteers himself to be a distraction on multiple occasions so the rest of his crew can move forward with their plans (Winter 170).

"'Cinder, get yourself together,' said Thorne. 'You are the heart of this revolution. If you give yourself up now, it's over. And you know what? She'll probably kill all those people down there anyway just to make sure this doesn't happen again.'" -Winter 351.
More than that, Thorne can recognize when other people care for each other. He assures Cinder that Kai does care for her still (Scarlet 254-55). And he warns Cress that he isn't the best person in the world to fall in love with because he doesn't want to hurt her.

"'But mostly I just think I'm not the best person to demonstrate all the goodness humanity has to offer. I don't want you to be too disappointed when you realize that.''' -Thorne, Cress 242.
He keeps his promises whether it's making sure Cress doesn't die before being kissed or punching Jacin in the face (Cress 485; Winter 424). He also is willing to sacrifice himself by jumping off the ledge in order to give Cinder the chance to stop Levana once and for all.

"Cinder glanced at Thorne, who seemed indifferent to the fact they were negotiating with his life. He clicked his tongue at her. 'Even I can see that's a bad deal.'
'Do me a favor?'
She frowned.
'Tell Cress I meant it.'"
-Cinder and Thorne, Winter 746.

Thorne may claim time and time again that he's not a hero (Cress 510). But time and time again, he shows his quality through small acts like comforting someone or giving up water or even his own life to help his crew--his family--save the world. Deep down, Thorne has a heart, and it's heart that ultimately gives him the chance to change.

5. He changes
Thorne starts off as a cocky, womanizing criminal, but over the course of the book series, he changes for the better. He learns what's really important to life (hint: not money or fame), he learns how to hold back on his charm to show what's really in his heart, and he learns who he truly loves.

Cress is the only one who can see Thorne as something more than a criminal. She believes he's heroic and chilvarous and daring. Thorne admits that he wishes he could be that kind of person, but he believes he can't; he believes he's too far gone to ever be redeemed.

"'You were so certain that I was this other person, and I kind of liked that you saw me differently than anybody else. Part of me kept thinking that maybe you've been right all along, and it's everyone else who's been wrong about me. That even I've been wrong about me.' He shrugged. 'But even that was just my ego talking, wasn't it?'" -Thorne, Cress 510-511.

Somewhere along the journey, Thorne realizes he desperately wants to become the kind of person Cress originally saw him as: the selfless hero (Winter 105-106). But he doesn't know how to be that person. Fortunately, he has friends that help him find his way. Cinder bargains for him to be pardoned of his crimes, which then allows him to start leasing his stolen ship in order to help distribute medicine and supplies for those with the plague (Winter 797; Stars Above 321). He no longer cares about whether he's famous or if he has a fortune. He only wants his ship and his crew by his side.

"'Can you imagine, me, in a legitimate job?'
'And a job that's helping people.' She beamed. 'I can imagine it very easily.'
'I'm sure you're the only one.'"
-Thorne and Cress, Winter 797. 
Somewhere in the desert, Thorne also learns what it means to truly love someone. After spending time with Cress, who is sweet and innocent and naive to the world, he wonders if maybe her idea of love can be possible. It's only when she's kidnapped that he begins to change; he realizes he abandoned her and she was taken. He realizes her worth (Cress 291)

"It seemed like hours since he'd so flippantly said good-bye to Cress, when she was still in the bath, when her singing was still echoing in his ears. And he'd left her. He'd just left her--and why? To show off his gambling skills? To prove that he was still self-sufficient? To prove that he didn't need anyone, not even her?" -Cress 289. 
This is the turning point for Thorne. From then on, he wants to do whatever it takes to keep Cress safe and prove to her and himself that he is the daring hero she claims he is. He starts to want other things out of life than money, women, and fame. He wants Emperor Kai to respect him and his crew (Winter 136). He wants Cress to know he truly cares for her more than any other girl (Winter 602). And he wants Cress to stay with him because he wants to show her the world she's been dreaming about her whole life: "'but there'll Forests. And mountains. And all sort of things. And when we're done, if there's anywhere you want to go back to, we could do that. And stay for a while. Or I could take you...anywhere. Anywhere you want to see.'" (Winter 798).

All his life, he flippantly tells girls he loves them because he thought that's what he was supposed to do. He doesn't have a clear idea of what love is. He just manipulates it like he does with everything else. Until he meets Cress. When he meets Cress, he suddenly is bombarded with a whole new idea of what it means to love someone, and he decides he wants to be that person. He decides he wants to love Cress (Winter 800). He changes because he wants to be better. Not to fit Cress' ideal of him, but to become a person that deserves someone like Cress. He has a criminal mastermind plan to become better.

"'First, get a legitimate job--check. Legally buy my ship--in progress. Prove that I'm hero material by helping Cinder save the world--oh, wait, I did that already.' He winked. 'Oh, and I have to stop stealing things, but that's probably a given. So I figure, by the time you realize how much I don't deserve you...I might kind of deserve you.'" -Thorne, Winter 801.
Captain Carswell Thorne definitely has a lot of flaws, but his flaws make him a little bit more endearing. His irresistible charm and quick thinking give him skills necessary to be a hero, but it's only when he changes his ways--due to the compassion and love in his heart--that he can become that hero. That he can become a literary gentleman.

"'I know you better than you think, Captain Thorne. I know you're smart. And brave. And thoughtful and kind and--'
'--and charming and--'
'--charasmatic and--'
She pressed her lips and glared at him, but his mocking grin had swept away any hint of sincerity.
'Sorry,' he said. 'Please, continue.'
'Perhaps more vain than I'd realized.'"
-Cress and Thorne, Cress 242. 

All quotes are from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, published by Feiwel and Friends: Scarlet (2013), Cress (2014), Winter ( 2015), and Stars Above (2016). 

1 comment:

  1. I'm just saying, but I love this guy and if he were to suddenly exist and wanted to marry me I would certainly not say no.

    <3 <3 <3 <3