Shady characters

Character study - Doug
DAJB at 8:53AM, Nov. 21, 2007
posts: 1,462
joined: 2-23-2007
Doug Chamberlain (a.k.a. Spitfire)


I honestly can't remember whether I named Doug “Chamberlain” after the British Prime Minister at the outbreak of the Second World War. I do know why he was named Doug, though. If it's not obvious, you really need to watch again the 1956 movie Reach for the Sky, starring Kenneth More!


Doug may look as if he has the looks of certain 1930s matinee idols like Ronald Colman but, in fact, his face came from an old photograph of a real fighter pilot. Before Harsho could start Chapter 2, I searched the web for reference pictures of pilots in their flight gear and sent him several. One in particular (which sadly, did not give a name) showed a pilot standing proudly by his new Spitfire and sporting a dashing moustache. I knew instantly that this was our Doug!

In a very small way, using a real but unknown pilot seemed a nice little nod towards the real heroes of the Battle of Britain.

Role within the story

All the characters in Shades have at least one of the characteristics of the British national character. Given that he was a WW2 fighter pilot, it probably won't come as a surprise that, in Doug's case, it's that good old “never-say-die, spirit of the Blitz” stoicism.

But Doug is more than the stiff upper-lipped, jingoistic John Bull that he might at first appear. As will become more apparent as the story progresses, his character is in part shaped by the losses he's suffered during the war. And, to that extent, his story mirrors that of Britain itself.

He would have been born between the two world wars, a time when Britain ruled between 25% and 30% of the planet, both by geography and by population; a time when maps were predominantly coloured with great swathes of the red and pink of the British empire. Britain was then much as the US is today - the world's sole super power. It was able to impose its sense of order on the world (the pax Britannica) through a combination of military might and a sense of moral superiority. Despite the atrocities which, like all empires, were undoubtedly committed in its name, Britain was also a civilising force, spreading a form of enlightened liberalism and sound administrative practices throughout the world. And its position of unrivalled supremacy was seen as the country's right and its destiny.

After the Second World War, just a couple of decades later, things were very different. The empire was all but gone with an increasing number of countries declaring or seeking independence. Economically, Britain was struggling to repay war loans to the US while having to watch the defeated nations of Germany and Japan growing ever stronger thanks to US aid. The post-war period, then, was a time when Britain still felt it had a moral obligation to address and resolve the world's great problems but was having to come to terms with the fact that it could no longer marshall the resources to do so.

What becomes of a nation's heroes after they've won the war that lost an empire?

Doug's personal losses are very much a reflection of the loss of wealth, influence, power and self-confidence suffered by the country.

last edited on July 18, 2011 10:23AM
jmt at 6:39PM, Nov. 22, 2007
posts: 66
joined: 7-4-2007
well, I have been reading Shades for a while, and I feel we have a certain friendship through our comments and so forth, and I am here to tell you that Doug is my favorite guy so far. The flash back of him fighting the nazi flying fortress was awesome, and his character really came through with his dialog and his actions. I can't wait to see more of this, and in my own little world, I love to see brits as this type of guy like you said the english national character.

I can't wait until he shows up again!
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:23AM
DAJB at 11:47PM, Nov. 22, 2007
posts: 1,462
joined: 2-23-2007
Thanks, JMT. I think the DD set-up does encourage more of a sense of community and friendship than perhaps other collectives. The emphasis on the Comments really does help people to get to know each other.

The difficult thing with Doug was finding a balance between giving him enough of the characteristics of the wartime “officer class” so as to be instantly recognisable as such and, at the same time, enough individuality to avoid making him a parody. I think we succeeded but I guess you'll be the judge of that!

We'll be continuing Doug's back-story in Chapter 5 of Shades and then he'll re-enter the “story proper” towards the end of Chapter 6.

Chocks away!
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:23AM

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