Thursday, March 9, 2017

"Kristin Lavransdatter" vs. "Better Call Saul"

I'm looking forward to lots of things in April.  Holy Week.  Easter.  Time with family.  Spring.  The third season of Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul is a wonderful show that I've really come to love.  It is the prequel to the wildly successful and very poignant Breaking Bad series.  
The series has awesome cinematography, acting, story, etc.  The gist of the show is exploring the interaction of two brothers.  Chuck is the eldest son.  Chuck is the cold and overachieving perfectionist, but we learn that he got that way partly because his mother loved his younger brother better.

Jimmy is the younger brother.  He's the life of the party, cuts corners, and has too much fun.  The show makes the case that he kind of got that way trying to win his cold brother's affection.

In essence, both are kind of messed up because of their "family dynamics", which is certainly a term that is more commonplace today thanks to the rise in pop-psychology.  More people are aware of the fact that our family relationships, notably to each of our parents and each of our siblings, has great effect on us.

It has certainly become en vogue these days to say something along the lines of "my family messed me up" and to believe that this understanding of family relationships is something we just stumbled across in the late 1960's.


I just finished this week an amazing Catholic novel Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset.  I stumbled across the novel and author whilst looking up lists of great Catholic novels when someone had asked for recommendations.   I had never heard of the author, and so I did what any rational human being does, I bought 5 of her books off of Amazon!

Kristin Lavransdatter is Undset's most acclaimed work, having garnered a Nobel Prize for literature in 1928.  Undset was a Norwegian living at the beginning of the 20th century, and she converted to Catholicism despite great societal and family protest.  She was received into the Church in 1924.

Permeating throughout Kristin Lavransdatter is an intense awareness of family dynamics as well - an almost constant recognition throughout the entire life of the heroine that her mother liked her sister better, that her father liked Kristin better, when Kristin becomes a mother, she likes some of her sons better at stages throughout her motherhood.  She also recognizes that her husband likes some of his sons better than others. And on and on.

I was struck by how evenhanded all of these preferences were dealt with in the novel.  Although there were preferences that family members had for each other, no one acted like it destroyed their lives.  Kristin didn't throw herself on a fire or run off and rebel and drink herself into an oblivion because her mom was closer to her sister.  

It seems like the different relationships stemming from family dynamics really only have the power to crush people that aren't aware that not every relationship in a family system is going to be the same.  

If you know there are just going to be personality types that are attracted to each other, then you can take it much more easily that your mom is closer to one of your siblings or that your sister likes one of her siblings more than you. It's just life.   Undset got that.  

Often times we can be tempted to think that no one prior to 1960 had any valuable or worthwhile psychological knowledge, but Undset, in her 100 year old novel, suggests that past generations knew that relationships can't all be the same.  Perhaps it even proves that some people prior to 1960 understood this point BETTER than some of us do today. 

Family dynamics and relationships and preferences do shape us.  Hopefully we can see them and move forward as the characters do in Kristin Lavransdatter as opposed to having those relationships be as catastrophic as they appear to be for the two central characters in Better Call Saul

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