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Dramatis Persona - Calvin And Hobbes

What can be so appealing about a six year old kid playing make-believe with his stuffed tiger? That he can put the best minds to shame! Calvin & Hobbes may be packaged as a comic strip but it is as good as lessons in heavy-duty philosophy. Bill Watterson, the cartoonist, attempts to portray the realities of life through his wisecracking, motor-mouth yet innocent creation. The backdrop and setup of the characters is incidentally inspired by former American president, Calvin Coolidge, who reportedly kept a tiger as a pet.

So Calvin is your quintessential troublesome six year old problem child – troubling his parents, disobeying his teachers, playing pranks on his classmates, but scratch the surface and you’ll find someone whose wisdom is well beyond his years. For Calvin is not the least bit like his peers, concerned only about Saturday morning cartoons (not that he isn’t as well!) or what’s for lunch.  The fact that he simulates approval ratings for his Dad’s performance as a parent along the lines of that of the American president, shows a thorough understanding of the political system. His non-conformist attitude at school is a clear indication that he’s not content with being just another brick in the wall. He’s not an atheist but rather conveniently manipulates the institution of faith in God (and Santa Claus) to suit his needs.

The most memorable of characters always come in pairs. There’s no Laurel without Hardy, no Tom without Jerry , no Thomson without Thompson and it goes without saying for Hobbes. He’s Calvin’s confidante, right-hand and best buddy but the relationship is symbiotic. Only with Calvin’s vivid imagination does Hobbes come alive. Many a time do you notice Hobbes to be a complete contrast to Calvin – opposing his radical views or reckless acts. This is not split personality, rather Hobbes is a projection of Calvin’s other side, his conscience. It also brings up a rather interesting point of self-existentialism. He knows that he doesn’t toe the line always and he has Hobbes chide him but if he plans to go ahead with it…well you can’t say he didn’t warn himself. But that doesn’t mean Hobbes is never a partner-in-crime, he’s a quite willing one at that. How hard can it be to change your own mind after all?

Coming now  to the people who influence his world – his parents, his teacher, his babysitter (Rosalyn) and his love-to-hate friend (Susie) No matter how much of a ruckus he creates, his Mom will still go running to him in the middle of the night when he calls for her and his Dad will always forgive him for his misdoings, instead of dragging him to see a shrink. No matter how much he spaces out in class or protests that answering 2+2 is against his religious beliefs, his teacher doesn’t see the need to give any other punishment except a reprimand and sometimes exasperation. 

No matter how difficult he makes it for her and even mistreats her, Rosalyn will never say no to baby-sitting him. No matter how much of a misogynist and chauvinist he parades himself to be, no matter how many snowballs he throws at her or tries to freak her out with gross descriptions of his lunch, Susie will never completely sever ties with him. Why? Because they all love him in their own way and recognize that he’s special, consciously or unconsciously.

Inspite of his extraordinary intellect, Calvin is still, on some level, just an ordinary kid. Even he has to deal with bullies like Moe or daydreams about being a cool superhero (Spaceman Spiff, Stupendous Man etc) He’s a representation of all what we endure at different stages of our life, it’s just that he never ages. Everything he does is straight from the gut. This kid’s really a genius one-man act. Giving a stuffed toy a mature personality of its own is beyond the capability and realms of an average Joe, let me tell you that! But he would be bereaved without his furry, feline friend. 

A common refrain of his is that reality continues to ruin his life and believe me, Calvin and Hobbes will be destroyed the day Calvin wakes up to the reality that Hobbes is nothing more that cloth and bits of fluff.

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Sayonee Ghosh Roy
I humbly profess to be spoilt, pampered brat with old-school upbringing. You could let me loose in a book-store and I'd never come out, except if you lure me out with coffee and Italian food.


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