Character Analysis: Henry and Vienna
Posted by ernestalba on March 6, 2008
How do you do a character analysis of soap opera characters? How do you do a literary analysis of this particular type of text? Plot must wither away, first of all; the characters’ feelings and interactions take precedence. These interactions and feelings must then be placed within the context of characters’ histories – their personal histories and their historical relationships with those around them. The first task of leaving plot alone in favor of character is possible for a student who has only recently started watching the soap. The second task of placing these characters in a historical context is nearly impossible. These people have developed outside of most newbies’ experiences, and have a rich history that applies to the character’s actions in ways newcomers to the soap can’t hope to perceive. Given this shortcoming on my part as a newcomer, I would nevertheless like to attempt an analysis of Henry and Vienna.
I do know a little bit about these characters, and of all of the relationships on the show, I am particularly interested in theirs. Vienna wears her lust on her shoulder. It becomes evident perhaps as soon as when Gray first invites her for a drink in the hotel and she accepts that she is following down the inevitable road to “dehabilitation” from her addiction to money. The bitter irony is that Henry was able to give up his gambling addiction for his love of Vienna, but she was unable to give up her addition for him. The so-called scandal with Kit was merely the final excuse to fling herself back into her old lifestyle. Why else would she immediately go back to Gray instead of waiting for an explanation from Henry? One might say she wanted leverage against him when he confronted her, but if she loved him, why would she want leverage? The only reason she would want to have something to throw in Henry’s face is so that she can justify her attachment to Gray and his money.
Poor Henry is in his own bind. It is his fault (from his perspective) that Vienna ran to Gray. She would not have had sex with him had he not gone through with the plan to seduce Kit, though one can certainly argue that Vienna eventually would have gone to Gray, anyway. He is now faced with the huge burden of knowing she had sex with him, knowing it’s his fault, and knowing that she thinks she is justified in doing so because of his affair, an affair he knows never happened.
At the same time, these are complex characters. Vienna does feel the pain of separation as evinced by her contorted expression after she leaves Henry in the hotel. Henry is obviously hurt, but still prideful. When he has the chance to tell Vienna the truth, he chooses to sarcastically say that he indeed wants to be with Kit. Neither of these people is willing or perhaps even capable of facing their flaws and admitting their shortcomings. They are too selfish to face their flaws – Vienna’s addiction to luxury, and Henry’s pride – which they otherwise might be able to deal with honestly, fruitfully, and most importantly, together. Knowing each others flaws, feeling each other’s vulnerability, they would be able to lead their hearts back to one another.