Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Do You Say...I'm Sorry

I'm thinking today about the different ways a character I'm writing about might say..."I'm sorry."

This thought occurred to me while reading the newspaper over the last few days. As many of you will have seen or read, a devastating tornado recently hit Joplin, Missouri. In the aftermath of an event like this--where the death toll continues to rise, where homes have been shattered, where cars and trucks, crushed like tin cans, clutter the roadways and fields--a person might say..."I'm sorry this happened to you. I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am this happened to you."

Contrast this tragedy to an another event I recently read about in the paper. A young woman, after consuming a considerable amount of alcohol, climbed behind the wheel of a car and killed a 64 year old man. In the aftermath of this tragic event, she was quoted as having said, apparently to the gentleman's family, "I'm sorry this happened to you." And this is what got me thinking.

Does the young woman say ..."I'm sorry this happened to you"...because she's not brave enough to say..."I'm sorry I did this to you." The difference between these two statements is considerable. Or does she not say the latter because she can't or won't understand the difference?

I wonder, does she not connect her own hand to the death? There is no hand attached to a tornado-"I'm sorry this happened." There is a hand attached to a steering wheel-"I'm sorry I did this."

I'm not sure yet how my character will apologize, but he will choose one of these statements, and the choice will define him.

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