With reputation being the opinion that people in general have about someone or something, or how much respect or admiration someone or something receives based on past behaviour or character, it is fitting to see that a number of the characters in Denny Bradbury’s novel “Borvo II” place high stakes on the importance of reputation, whether it be that of their own or of the village community as a whole.
The classical Greek philosopher, Socrates, was known to have said “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear” whilst Martin Luther King spoke about how “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Character and reputation being closely linked – Abraham Lincoln said that “character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing” – Borvo and his family and friends demonstrate how important it is they as individuals appear to each other and the wider community as men and women to be trusted and respected and for this reason certain events of past and present are examined and evaluated to provide a better outcome that does not tarnish one’s own – or the group as a whole’s – reputation.
In Chapter Nine, ‘Seofon makes amends’ , we revisit the past when Seofon met his son for the first time since he was a babe in arms and how he did not own up to being his father. Seofon talks of how Borvo had not been happy with Seofon’s treatment of his son, with Borvo spending many nights challenging his to own up to his parental role. Denny writes “ …The more he thought the more he wanted to make reparations to his son, Seith, and to prove to his good friend Borvo that he was a worthy man.” As Seith says when he meets him “Was I such a disappointment? Was I not worthy to be called your son?…I no longer know who I am”. Although as much a legend as the stories he told, Seofon had risked such an infamous reputation by turning his back on his own flesh and blood and leaving him with a void, a lack of sense of belonging. He then proceeds to make amends for this when he meets with the Queen and in the evening when the gathered crowd are ready to hear one of his stories he begins by saying “ Welcome, Seith. He is my son. I publicly say, here is my son. In my past I have done wrong but now I make amends”.
Reputation can also be seen to play a part in the following chapter, Chapter Ten, ‘Eldric is reassured’, when Alric, Borvo’s friend and spiritual ward, tells Borvo how he is in love with Godgyfu, Borvo’s niece, but fears she is looking to be matched with Wystan, Eldric the village elder’s son:
“He turned to Borvo as he had to see his initial reaction. On this did his whole future hang. If Borvo disapproved then he would never entertain his suit to be acceptable to the family…..She has been looking to Wystan. They are such friends. The families seem to wish it”. The discussion of whether a union is thought to be appropriate is also raised regarding Borvo’s sister in law, Hild, being a match for Eldric’s brother, Cenhelm. As Eldric says to Borvo “ Yes I would see the union as a good thing for all parties, Hild, Cenhelm and the village.”
Throughout Borvo II we as readers can see how important it is to all within the community that the right thing is done by the individuals and the community themselves. This is demonstrated when Borvo looks to discuss certain matters with Eldric the elder. Denny writes “ Borvo would talk with Eldric about the status of the healer and how the village recognised him as such. These matters were important to keep the balance of the community, with the maturing young leaving for the towns every person in the countryside had to be of value and pull their weight.”
As Pliny the Elder, the Roman author, natural philosopher and naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire says “It is generally much more shameful to lose a good reputation than never to have acquired it.”