Themes In Fiction #13 – Rebirth

Picture by Mark Gstohl

Picture by Mark Gstohl

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

About

Rebirth can mean a number of things – reinvention, a change of heart, or literal death and rising again. Whether it’s a literal or metaphorical rebirth for a character, it’s signifies a momentous occasion in their life and a moment of great change and development.

Examples

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert19501

A real life story of significant change in life – Eat, Pray, Love chronicles the adventures of Elizabeth Gilbert after a sort-of mid-life-crisis. Deciding that, though she outwardly has everything a thirty-something American could ever want, she is desperately unhappy, Gilbert leaves everything she knows behind to try and find a new way to ‘be’.

Gilbert’s quest for spiritual and emotional rebirth takes her across the globe, from Italy to India to Bali, experiencing different cultures and ways of life. The lessons she learns from these different cultures inform her spiritual development and ultimately help her to be ‘reborn’ as a person with a more positive outlook, a life she is happy with, and greater fulfilment.

daughter of smoke and boneDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

From a metaphorical example to a literal one, Daughter of Smoke and Bone features a race of characters who can literally be reborn. Their souls are able to be captured and replaced into new bodies built from… teeth.

An image that makes me cringe as much as I love Taylor’s writing. I hate teeth. Teeth skeeve me out.

The impact of this ability to be reborn (including the way that the bodies can be subtly altered depending on the types of teeth used) is explored in the novel, with the central character and her family particularly affected. It’s such a unique and interesting method of rebirth, and just one of the many amazing ideas in the novel.

Vampires and the theme of Rebirth

Vampires as a narrative construct are all about rebirth – the change from weak to strong, good to bad, combined with the physical rebirth of death and reincarnation.

To take Twilight as an example – Bella goes from being the weakest character in the books, constantly in trouble, constantly being captured, hurt, rescued, to being singlehandedly responsible for saving all her friends and family. But only after she dies giving birth to her half vampire baby and being turned by her vampire boyfriend.

The release from earthly, human bonds into the superior vampire form allows many characters to become almost caricatures of themselves – their strengths taken to extremes, their weaknesses eliminated. They are reborn better, but in doing so often have to sacrifice the day time (lest they become sparkly in front of some unsuspecting humans… yeah, it was original, but it was pretty stupid.) because rebirth can rarely happen without some sort of loss or cost. Especially when it’s a rebirth for the better.

 

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