Please, release me, let me go, for I don’t love you anymore.
To waste our lives would be a sin. Release me and let me love again.
(Song written in 1949 by Eddie Miller and Robert Yount)
The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Release . If there is one literary character that personifies the song Release Me, it is William Dobbin in the novel Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. Dobbin remains faithful to Amelia Sedley for years, even after her marriage to George Osborne. His name crops up occasionally in other literature as a byword for faithfulness and unrequited love. In one of Agatha Christie’s novels, a character is described as “a regular Dobbin”; that one word reveals volumes about the person.
There is another “Dobbin” in Vanity Fair and that is Amelia Sedley, the character about which Dobbin is so Dobbinish. She marries Dobbin’s best friend, George Osborne and when he is killed in battle, makes her life a shrine to his existence. Cherishing the memory of George, she rebuffs Dobbin’s offers of marriage, treating him very shabbily.
Now whenever I encounter a literary Dobbin, I always analyze the object of their devotion. Many times it’s a real head-scratcher. Take, for example, George Osborne. He is the spoiled son of a rich man. A vain, self-centered spendthrift, he squanders his inheritance and leaves Amalia pregnant and penniless at the time of his death. He also flirts shamelessly with Amalia’s best friend, Becky Sharp. While reading the book, I could find no qualities he possessed that compelled his wife’s steadfast devotion. Over and over, I asked myself, “Why, Amelia, why?”
I can understand why there are Dobbin characters in the first place. They can be interesting. However, when I consider all of the Dobbins I have encountered in literature, most of them are like Amelia. Why is that? Why do the worst characters bring out a person’s Dobbinishness?
(Note to self: Don’t be a Dobbin—if you must, make sure that he or she is worthy.)
So my advice to all you literary characters out there is this: If you are considering being a Dobbin, I suggest you dabble in it first. Begin by being a Dob and investigate your Dobbee thoroughly and objectively. It could save you a lifetime of grief.