So naturally I thought about this man, this clueless character who's singing the song. And I pondered what other characters might think of him, and how they'd react. Check out these lyrics:
PUT ANOTHER LOG ON THE FIRE
by Shel Silverstein
sung by Waylon Jennings & Tompall Glaser
Put another log on the fire
Cook me up some bacon and some beans
Go out to the car and change the tire
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.
Come on baby, you can fill my pipe and then go fetch my slippers
And boil me up another pot of tea
Then put another log on the fire, babe
And come and tell me why you're leaving me.
Now don't I let you wash the car on Sunday
Don't I warn you when you're gettin' fat
Ain't I a gonna take you fishin' with me someday
Well, a man can't love a woman more than that.
Ain't I always nice to your kid sister
Don't I take her driving every night
So sit here at my feet 'cause I like you when you're sweet
And you know it ain't feminine to fight.
So put another log on the fire…
The link to this song if you want to hear it--is HERE.
Showing and Not Telling
If such a character were found in a novel, this song (probably as dialogue) would be a perfect example of showing and not telling about his personality. His chauvinistic, unreasonable, clueless words say it all. There's no need for another character or the narration (i.e., the author) to label him that way. The lines end up conveying exactly the opposite of what is being said, even though the man in question seems to believe it wholeheartedly.
What's nice about this example is that we can get a glimpse of this man's inner reasoning and viewpoints. It gives reasons--even if seen as obnoxious to others--why he thinks the way he does. For instance, fishing is a wonderful thing in his eyes, and he's offering to take his woman with him on a fishing trip (or at least he claims that intent). What sacrifice and devotion! And his idea of femininity is a docile woman, one who works hard to make his life comfortable, one who doesn't complain. He sees a man as being the "king of his castle."
Obviously, this man and his woman have opposing personalities, goals, and intentions. He's expecting her to continue to wait upon him hand and foot, and she's finally fed up with it. This is an excellent opportunity for conflict at the point of change. They have opposing viewpoints and goals. The clash makes for good writing and reading material.
Have you heard this song before, or read Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends?
Do you think this is a caricature or are some people really this earnestly chauvinistic?
Have you written an unreasonable character, and were you able to Show rather than Tell that quality?