Joined: 10 Nov 2010
Topic: Steve Carella
Posted: 05 Jan 2011 at 6:50pm
In the 87th precinct, Steve Carella is immediately perceived by the reader as the hero of the group of nameless investigators working in the City. From his first appearance in every new novel of the series, the author makes it clear that Carella is a trustworthy person, one with whom we’d like to be friends. This isn’t because he emanates fear in order to keep us on our place, rather it is because from the first lines, from the first thoughts he makes we understand what kind of man he is. Carella is pleasant even in his looks: “He was a big man, but not a heavy one. He gave the impression of great power, but the power was not a meaty one. It was, instead, a fine-honed muscular power;” thus is his behavior. He is quite staid, but not without a good sense of humor of which he does not take advantage so he doesn’t hurt anyone listening. In addition, even though he has been a policeman for a long time (in the first novel that came out in 1956 – we are told that he has been a cop for twelve years), yet he is not used to violence and death , which he considers to be unjust intrusions into normalcy, which he cannot see simply as basic facts.
In his first novel, “Cop Hater,” McBain in fact describes Carella’s deep sensitivity, saying that in time, “he had learned to fight the nausea and overcome the shock in seeing a cadaver, but he would never be accustomed to all the other things that make up the complete picture of a death: the violation of every intimacy in death, to the idea that a life beating moments earlier was human in form has now become an inert mass of flesh and blood.” This respect toward a murder’s victims, or of an accident, or simply that fact that life is given and then it’s wiped away, is a painful constant in Carella’s character and in that of his author. That said, Steve is not the good-natured one of the group; this role belonged to Meyer, or to the romantic dreamer, Kling or to the more pragmatic and cynical Cotton Hawes. Being the hero, even as a regular man, Steve Caralla doesn’t have the enthralling likeableness of the other characters. This is because a hero appears grayer as he is less colorful than the others, and if you will, a bit colder. In fact, men like Carella are enviable, but in realty do not find a lot of followers. Perhaps because almost all of us by nature tend to be drawn to the good-natured, even if a bit of a braggart, or big talker, even if a bit loquacious or even somewhat violent, acting in the name and on behalf of the Law. The truth is that perfection scares us, even as we admire it; perhaps because we feel far from it as we feel unworthy. Yet, how much better human co-existence would be if people had the human spark as does Steve Carella!
Carella is considered a reflection of McBain because of their common Italian heritage, and also and above all else, because the author has poured many of the experiences he lived in his childhood and teen-aged years into the personage. Even the physical description is similar, because the author was tall, thin and good-looking. Steve lived a sterling private life. Married forever and ever with the beautiful, Teddy, father of two beautiful twins, a boy and a girl – Carella feels fulfilled as a man. His work perhaps doesn’t excite him, but it certainly didn’t leave him cold. During his investigations, he certainly has had to deal with many women, different, beautiful and desirable. Some of them clearly let him know that for him they are available. Steve always manages to reject their advances, even if at times with some regret. This is because he loves his wife too much to hurt her, to betray her trust that she has in him, risking to dim the light that a successful union emanates, dirtying the sacred promise of fidelity made in marriage. He knows very well that afterwards he would not be the same man who had in the past felt a great fire, which continues to burn and solidify them as a couple. Steve understands that he does not need amorous adventures outside his marriage, because the authentic adventure is the one he lives with his woman, and with its thousands of facets, he has had the good fortune to meet the right person. His attitude doesn’t change as the years pass, just as he doesn’t change very much. The difficulties that life has rained on him don’t soak him at all. They don’t get him wet, because his soul is kept safe by the umbrella of his deep moral conviction, not that of a bigot: cold and without humanity; rather that of a man who still obeys, because he truly believes in the teachings that he has followed since his youth. Steve Carrella is the image equal to the magic mirror that reflects the soul of his author that times has changed physically, but not morally, that in his hero will be as he is until the interruption of his earthly experience.
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