Ludovic Seeley

{The Emporer’s Children by Claire Messud}
{Reading Status: three-quarters of the way through the novel}

Tim: As part of our conversation in our “Relationships” post, it seemed like we came back a couple times to Ludovic Seeley. Particularly, what does Ludo want? It’s a core character trait. What motivates him. He has been the archetypical shapeshifter through nearly the entire book so far. There are only a couple things we can really pin down about him. He’s very interested in the way society works, and he’s fairly committed to the idea that society, repetitively, has got it all wrong. At the same time (as we discussed before), he’s committed to the idea of mutability. I doubt very much that Ludo believes in absolute truth. In fact, I’d be surprised if he subscribed to much truth of any kind. Not an existentialist, that one. No, I think part of the reason that Ludo gives us the willies as a reader is that if I had to guess, I’d guess he’s motivated by power. And I think this is where The Monitor comes into play. He sells it as uncovering the truth, and characters like Marina and Bootie buy into the idea that there is truth to be discovered. But i think it’s likely that from Ludo’s point of view he’s just on the cutting edge of the next great persuasion. I think he’s trying to play god, if only over his small domain. He wants to hold all the cards, to be the man behind the curtain and the wizard, both.

Debby: Not an existentialist nor, as we find out, much of sentimentalist. Ludo is a “modern Napoleon”. So what does this mean? His army is his words- he can break down barriers and change the tone of society with his magazine. I bet he has a bit of an image-complex, too. Marina is clearly attracted to rather unfortunate-looking characters (Fat Al? Really?). Ludo is clean and trim, but slight and not exactly pleasant to look at. His speech, then, is his true seduction. Danielle and Marina were both swayed by this, even Annabel to some degree. I think Murray, as much as he dislikes Ludo, has a respect for his talent as a wordsmith. Murray, too, has used words to get what he wants and has to appreciate this next generation of expression.

Tim: Sure. And we touched on this some already, but let’s try to dive into a couple of specifics. What does Ludo want from his relationship with Marina, do you think? Because it doesn’t seem to be getting him a lot so far, unless he’s just looking for some creature comforts. That doesn’t strike me as Ludo, though. And that’s part of the funny thing. I have very little defined notion of who Ludo is, but he does seem to occupy space. Like a cloud. Never quite sure where the edges are, but you can point to the general location. Again, the shapeshifter. (By the way everyone should go read Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Conrad and/or The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler if they haven’t.)

Debby: Oh, I think Ludo knows a hot ticket when he sees one. Remember how interested he was to meet Murray? It hasn’t come up much since, but I think he realized how much influence Murray Thwaite has over New York society (and how many parties he is an honored guest at). Ludo might never be in Thwaite’s high graces, but winning the daughter was a sure way to tag along to every single “place to be.”

Tim: Yeah, I guess so. But then the running into marriage seems a bit off. My guess is Ludo isn’t the sort of person to feel tied down, even by that – as a side note, do you think we’ll see a pre-nup? I wouldn’t be wholly surprised to see Murray be the one to suggest it, which may be just what Ludo wants – but it certainly seems easier to pull Marina into his cult of personality and just date her. They’ve only been together a couple months, after all.

Debby: But Marina needs marriage. That’s what is going to make her feel fulfilled. And it will also make her more useful to Ludo.

Tim: And we’re back back to relationships. Which is often where what people want, and what people get, can get mixed up.

Debby: Exactly. I feel like there’s a lot of build-up at this point for the wedding. I’m sure we will see more what incentivizes Ludo in this marriage as the nuptials unfold.

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