ME: Stories of My Life
I just got done reading, ME: Stories of My Life, by Katharine Hepburn. The title seems appropriate for the story of the life of a woman who freely admits that she lived a selfish life. At least until she met Spencer Tracy; but more on that later.
I think it’s good for a writer to read biographies. It enables us to understand character motivation for when it’s time to write our own stories. The more biographies we read, the more character traits we have to add to the pot of our own unique individuals.
Katharine Hepburn has long been known as a strong independent woman who lived life on her own terms. Yet, like anyone else, she had her struggles. When she first went to college at Bryn Mawr she was uncomfortable being surrounded by so many other girls. This was due to the fact that she had been home schooled after the accidental hanging death of her brother and not used to being surrounded by so many others. She’d get up at 4:00 am just so she could be alone to shower and eat breakfast without others being present.
Money didn’t seem to be a motivating factor when she was making decisions about her career. She preferred to make up her own mind about a part without the interference. When she was doing a play, the director tore apart her performance at every turn and left her with very little confidence in her own abilities. This, in turn caused the play to do poorly at the box office. Despite this, the director planned to take the show on the road. Katharine couldn’t bear the thought of her continued humiliation and decided to buy her way out of the play which left her short of cash. But she didn’t’ care. She was never out of work long however, and soon found something else to do so she could regain her confidence.
I find it interesting that a woman of an admittedly selfish nature, gave everything of herself when she met and fell in love with Spencer Tracy. Everything he wanted, they did. I’m not sure if you can call it love to lose yourself in someone else. I always thought love was a place where you can be more yourself. But Katharine was happy to put Spencer’s needs above her own. Despite this desire to give all of herself to Spencer, Katharine never did take the time to find out why Spencer was so tormented. Was it because as a Catholic, he felt guilty for living with one woman while being married to another? Or did he feel guilty because of his deaf son Johnny? No-one will ever know, because Katharine never bothered to ask. But somehow their relationship worked. They were together for twenty-seven years before Spencer died at sixty-seven.
So, here we have an independent selfish woman who sacrificed herself for the man she loved, a man tormented by we know not what despite the love of a good woman, and the jilted wife who refused to allow herself and her estranged husband happiness. This certainly makes for some interesting possibilities for characters of a book. Add that to whatever other biographies you read, stir it up in the pot, and see what you come up with.