When we think of hiding, camouflage and going underground would be the ideal option. You wouldn’t normally think about writing. Nah! we write to express, to communicate, to disseminate ideas. Could writing be a way of concealment then? Very unlikely, and yet very possible.
The thought struck me when I came to know about a film related to Charles Dickens. Dickens is one of the most widely read authors in the world, he is also considered to be the quintessential gentleman from 19th century England. The man who when was asked to write about the pomp and glory of the royal family denied to do so, because he wrote of the pains and joys of the everyday people. That was Dickens to me, whose stories I have read and rejoiced since a long time. But this particular film was a revelation, because it shattered his image as a family guy, uncovering his secret mistress that he had for a time period of 13 years till his death.
150 years ago, Dickens had a strong brand image, which would have gone down the drains had his secret been revealed. Thus, he tried his best to conceal his relationship, shocking many people. But I am not here to debate his life.
The faint possibility that Dickens might have written much of his later works to conceal his pain, agony and his secret affair with his mistress interests me the most; the idea that through writing, Dickens did not necessarily express but rather hid behind his craft.
Think of a line you absolutely love, from a book, a movie, a conversation. Anything.
I’ll share a snippet of a piece I wrote.
Now, I might have 1769 reasons behind writing this line. And it is not necessary that as the listener or reader, you will be able to interpret it exactly the same way. Unless I explicitly state the objective, you will never know it, but what you will know indeed is your objective, your understanding. It surprises me greatly, how is this expressing myself then?
What I am doing but hiding behind an array of carefully chosen words? Of course I am writing. But it is you who is expressing, to yourself. I am merely hiding, beneath these networks of words. Some might call it a barrier, but it is a beautiful barrier I must say, one that helps us hide.
This is of course a very rudimentary version of anything concrete. All I do want to say is perhaps there is a different side of writing, one that does not involving expressing but hiding in metaphors and characters.
Perhaps that is what Charles Dickens did. His mistress is believed to have had a profound effect on his greatest work, Great Expectations. The story follows the life of Pip and his beloved Estella, but they never meet, not explicitly. Dickens separated from his wife, but could never bring his love for his mistress into light because of his public image. He could have instead hid his desires and confusions inside his characters and inside a story. But does this mean all works of writing have something hiding behind them? Not necessarily. But the idea that people write to express, might just be a one-sided approach to the very complex nature of us, humans.
You don’t necessarily have to express as you write, you could hide, camouflage and divert your audience in a world so very different from where you are. It makes writing sound like a code breaking task in Sherlock or James Bond. It might be and it might not. But it sure makes it interesting to explore.