Since, writing about Chinua Achebe’s death, I’ve been thinking about the braggart. If you don’t know what a braggart is, let me define it for you. A braggart is someone who does a lot of bragging. I was looking for a little more in-depth definition, but that’s what I got. Thanks, dictionary.com! While I was on Dictionary.com, I also read that this word is French, well, based in French then morphed into what it is today. It originally meant something like showing off your clothes.
Over time, I have come to learn that people who are braggarts are often very stubborn. They stand by their claims and appearance to the very end. You won’t see one of these guys backing down from a claim or the best this or the best that. They are never going to relinquish that title while they are alive, which is kind of unfortunate because a lot of these guys end up dead in literature, unless some pitiful soul takes pity on them.
I thought of Gaston when making this post about the braggart. If you haven’t ever watched the movie The Beauty and the Beast, you should. It has some great music. Children’s movies these days don’t have great music. Anyway, if you haven’t seen the movie, Gaston is this macho man who has a thing for Belle and just assumes that she can be his. He’s good at all this awesome stuff. There is even a whole song about it.
You will notice Gaston is kind of the man, but he’s definitely also a jerk. He’s quite abusive to his friends.
Gaston does meet an unfortunate end in the movie. He just can’t let go of the idea that someone else could have something that should be his, according to him anyway.
Our tradition of story telling is full of these characters. They just can’t let go of their pride and bragging ways. I mentioned this earlier in concern to Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. In that book we have the character of Okonkwo, who is trying to run away from the image of his lousy father. He tries to do everything best and be the best there is. Everyone thinks he is the best. He’s well-known and has wealth to his name. He can brag that he beat The Cat in wrestling and people let him brag, but his bragging ways lead him to an untimely end.
Then we have characters like the Miller. Let me explain a little about who the Miller is. The Miller got rather boastful one night at the local bar, or whatever, and bragged that his daughter could spin straw into gold. She could do no such thing. He just wanted to brag for the sake of bragging. By and by the king heard about this and summoned the girl to his castle. The end would not be good for her if she did not produce gold from straw. Instead of standing up for his daughter and saying, “Hey I was just making stuff up,” he let his daughter be taken away by the king, where she fell into cohorts with the notorious Rumpelstiltskin. That’s pretty bad. Things turned out ok for her though, I’m not sure what happened to the Miller.
Then this concept has a parallel in real life. We all know someone who is a braggart. Everything they do is just amazing. They run a marathon then talk about it for six months. Their baby is just the best baby in the whole world. Their salsa is the spiciest. They had the biggest kidney stone, blah, blah, blah, and more blah. We all know someone like this and most of the time, we just wish they would shut up. Unless they did something genuinely awesome like going to the moon, we don’t really want to hear them talk about their so-called achievements over, and over, and over again.
When I think about the braggart I also think of children. We’ve either all been there or seen an argument between children in which they try to “one-up” one another with increasingly insane claims, half of them don’t even make sense. It’s that whole argument about whose dad is better and ultimately both dads end up being astronaut-super heroes with billions of dollars, of course it’s not true, but the children get so carried away in their game of “one-up” that they don’t think about what comes out of their mouths.
Most of us have grown out of the behavior of one-upmanship, but sometimes we still get that itch in the form of “keeping up with the Joneses” which is very much the same, but you spend a lot more money.
The next time you read a book or watch a movie, consider that there might be a character who is the braggart. It can be a man or a woman. It can be a child or an adult. No matter who the braggart is, remember that there is almost always one around.