Monday, June 1, 2020

Classic Character: The Ambitious Thea Kronborg from The Song of the Lark

Thea Kronborg is one of the most complex characters I have ever analysed for #ClassicCharacter. A daughter of a Swedish Methodist minister in a small village called Moonstone, she is a strong-willed, reclusive, serious, uncommonly intelligent girl. Since childhood she possesses an unleashed desire - of what exactly, she didn't know herself at first. But people around her - at least some of them (her mother, Doctor Archie, Ray Kennedy, Spanish Johnny, Aunt Tillie, Herr Wunsch) - could feel the extraordinary and great talent hidden in her frail body. Though for common people, she is just a queer, selfish, self important girl. Thea Kronborg was loosely based on a real life Opera singer: Olive Fremstad.

I thought at first that she was just an introverted girl, of whom I can relate very well, as our most satisfying moments are those spent on our own. That's me! - cried I silently. But when the story was unfolding, I realized that it is a story of the making of an artist - an opera artist.

Though I'm no artist, we have both few similarities, one of it is perfectionist. We always try to do our utmost best, and would be disappointed when we don't perform as best (or hard) as we ought to (to our own standard). We also enraged or even disgusted when others less talented boasted of their imperfect performance: "how could they??" The other one is uninterestedness where common people's envy and hostility are concerned - the let-them-say-what-they-will, we-don't-care attitude. But our similarities stop there.

Driven by ambition (or is it passion?), Thea left her home for good, to study music and singing. Focus is one thing to pursue one's career, and I endorsed her decision to leave Moonstone for good, for there are a lot of obstacles from even her family, which will weigh her down from reaching up the stars. However I didn't agree with her when she prioritized her job over her dying mother. I told myself, that Thea would be tortured by remorse for the rest of her life. And I'm not completely wrong. During her career Thea is always torn between two natures. She is driven by ambition, but also crushed by uprootness from her origin. She tries to leave the past behind, but at the same time always return to the embrace of the past when in trouble. In short, Thea is UNHAPPY. Yes, she is beaming after a triumphant performance, but then becomes sad and dejected after. And when she begged Doctor Archie to come at her hotel because "there's a lot she wanted to talk about", I began to understand how lonely a great artist can be.

In the end I asked myself, whether Thea Kronborg is purely selfish or merely ambitious? From her relationship with Spanish Johnny and the Mexicans, I know that she's an affectionate girl. But her ambition forced her to sacrifice many things dear to her. Does it really necessary? Can't she care for both - affection and career? When her mother was dying, for instance, couldn't she afford to let go of that one performance and spent time with her mother, even only several hours, after all that Mrs. Kronborg had done for her dear little girl? True that she might not get another chance of the performance for a long time. But one'll never know, there's always another chance, while one's mother only dies once! No, I strongly believe that however big one's ambition is, one's true fulfillment comes from honest consciousness of having performed love and kindness (especially) to one's parents. That consciousness would then clear one's path to whatever achievement one might seek for the rest of one's life. So, to answer my question, Thea Kronborg is ambitious AND unhappy. Maybe that's the only way of making great artists? I don't know. What do you think?


  1. excellent read! you may be interested in facebook group 'the way we read now'. we've just finished exciting discussions on ford's 'the good soldier' and starting a henry james in january 2021.

    1. Thanks! Unfortunately I have given up with Facebook, but I love the idea of using FB for book discussion.


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