Why is a physicist writing so much about literature? What is so special about this author named Sommers?
The simple answer to both questions is the same: she is my friend. We were friends in college and reconnected during the past few years via the internet (Facebook and her blog). I write these posts for many reasons
- To show my appreciation of her work
- To show my appreciation for her increasing my interest in fiction and blogging
- To more deeply connect to the world of art and creativity to which she has introduced me
- To be a small example of cooperation between art and science
- To process all of the emotions that reading good fiction arouses in me
- If I get anything wrong, she can tell me how to correct it.
As a particle physicist, I am trained to find patterns in data. This post and Part 1 are examples of what happens when that mentality meets fiction.
I’ve already written one Ph.D. dissertation in physics. If, for some strange reason, I had to write one in literature, it would probably be titled Character Trios in the Prose of Jackie Lea Sommers. In each of the stories I listed in Part 1, we find three characters who form the core of the story; for sci-fi fans like myself, think of Kirk, Spock and McCoy from the original (and rebooted) Star Trek.
Sometimes we find one or two outsiders whose interaction with the central trio forms an important part of the story. This is the case for the most obvious trio of these stories, found in “Covered Up Our Names.” Mack, Ty, and Caleb are explicitly named “the Triumvirate.” This story is unique because its point of view is centered on the outsider: Jonas. Truest, which is similar to “Names” in many ways, centers around a trio consisting of the Hart twins (Laurel and Silas) and Westlin Beck. In this novel, I think I see two outsiders with major importance to the story: Elliot and Whit. I had to read “Half Mast” a few times to count the characters. I think I see a trio of the unnamed narrator, who is the eldest child, her mother, and her younger brother Jakey. These three know their American history well and are introducing it to the youngest child: Betty.
Jackie’s faith is apparent in almost all of her stories, especially “A Traitors’ Tea,” “Madam, Meet Adam,” and “Nine Names.” Given her openness about her faith, perhaps these character trios appear often in her writing as a reference to the Trinity. “A Traitors’ Tea” has only three characters: the unnamed narrator, Simon Peter, and Edmud Pevensie from the Chronicles of Narnia. At first read “Madam, Meet Adam,” seems to have only two characters: Adam and Eve; however, they know God (the Maker) created them, and they go to worship him at the end of the story. Similarly, “Nine Names,” seems to have only one character: Susan. Her dreams are haunted by Aslan, “a lion, tawny gold and glorious” who also has eight more names. She learns another, thus completing the trio, in the final sentence.
I like to summarize things in tables. I recommend reading “Nine Names” before reading the table.
|Truest||West, Laurel, and Silas||Elliot and Whit|
|Covered Up Our Names||Mack, Ty, and Caleb||Jonas|
|Half Mast||Narrator, Mom, Jakey||Betty|
|A Traitors’ Tea||Narrator, Simon Peter, and Edmund||–|
|Madam, Meet Adam||Eve, Adam, and the Maker||–|
|Nine Names||Susan, Aslan, and Jesus||Aunt Alberta|
I’ll leave you with three possible designs for the flag in “Half Mast.” Thanks to Dan Bliss for the mathematics and inspiration to generate them. Based on Jackie’s description of a “crowded square of 64 stars,” I have ordered them from most to least likely.