William Bell’s Forbidden City demonstrates effective characterization by including realistic motivations and subtle details. Alexander Jackson and his father, Ted Jackson make the decision to embark on a journey to China to develop their knowledge about the country and report this information back to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Unfortunately, the trip to this compartmentalized fantasy world fails to satisfy their expectations. This is attributed to previously existing dysfunction and a difficulty accepting the paranoia ingrained in a Communist state.
Ted Jackson shows evidence of having abandonment issues and despite his best efforts, this trickles through his optimistic facade that he uses to conceal his shattered emotions. An indication of such issues includes an underlying “clinginess” towards an individual and depression. These signs are clearly exhibited by Ted Jackson throughout the first twenty percent of the Forbidden City. Those who suffer from abandonment most typically gravitate towards those who can provide emotional stimulation similar to what was previously provided by the unavailable individual. Alexander Jackson provides attachment and warmth for Ted because of their relationship as father and son. The fear of loss is intensified when abandonment is experienced because of a desire to avoid further trauma. While it was possible for Ted to go on his trip to China independently, he insists on Alexander to accompany him. This could have been interpreted as a gesture of kindness and fatherly compassion but instead, it is an action characterized by fear. When Alexander is hesitant to follow his father, Ted tries to manipulate him. By purposefully understating the time spent in China, Ted makes Alexander agree to the trip. After realizing the truth of the situation, Alexander is too late. Another example of Ted Jackson’s issues resulting from abandonment is his depression. Those who suffer from clinical depression usually try to avoid the help and care of others in order to “avoid burdening other individuals”. Ted is characterized by an overly exuberant attitude but it is revealed that he struggles with the departure of his wife. While the adventure to China originally served as an emotional escape, an accentuated state of awareness and stress from an increased workload may unintentionally unravel Ted Jacksons intricately woven mask as the narrative progresses. In addition, the trip to China may also inadvertently deconstruct Alexander Jacksons innocent view of the human condition and his world.
The value of human life and distrust are ideas foreign to Alexander Jackson. The sensationalization of violence and war has become increasingly easier due to medias inclination towards representing the “extremes” and the superficiality of human lives. Alexander compares war to chess when remarking on Sun Tzu. This reveals that Alexander believes war to be as simple as an interaction in a game. The emotional repercussions and loss of life are both left ignored in a chess game. Alexander believes war to be art. A juvenile undertone is emphasized in this belief. This juvenility is further reiterated when Alexander is shocked to realize the emotional climate of China. An ignorance towards the reality of certain hardships and qualities is prevalent in Alexander’s worldview. After realizing that his tour guide, Lao Xu served as a spy for the Chinese government, Alex is left shattered. He fails in trying to comprehend why such paranoia in the government may exist and instead wallows in shock. Without the proper experiences and understandings, Alex is unable to learn as much as he could. His innocent views obstruct his ability to accept the unpleasant qualities that exist in his world.
William Bell proficiently demonstrates the obstructions that are present in human actualization. The narrative may follow the Tian An Men Square rebellion but I firmly believe that overcoming these obstructions belong as an narrative hallmark in the story.