Sybil supposedly had 16 distinct personalities tormenting her
mind. Regan McNeill was a sweet, demure 12 year-old girl who was invaded by a vicious, raging demon. Yet, as impressive as these two characters are, can you imagine a character with infinite personalities? Science fiction author-extraordinaire Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) created just such a being in his classic collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles. He created an alien being -- one of the last of its kind -- who had the ability to take on the form and personality of any human being.
One of the few remaining Martians not killed by the disease introduced by the humans, this tortured, lonely soul tried to survive among the first colonizers of Mars. He took on the identity of a little boy who died long before on Earth. His aging parents knew he wasn't really their son (who would be a grown man by now had he lived). But their grief was so great that it comforted them immensely to pretend he was indeed on Mars with them -- their precious little boy who had died long ago.
If they had lived in isolation, this lovely little illusion may have lasted many years. Unfortunately, any contact with other humans forced the Martian to change into their lost loved ones or people from the past they had strong emotional ties with. In the end, all of the human families in the colony fought over the Martian. Each family could only see their own lost loved one in him, whether old or young, male or female. The dire stress and confusion of it all overwhelms and kills the poor Martian who just could not be all things to every human at once.
Of course, science fiction and fantasy writers have great leeway in creating fantastic characters like the Martian, because of the genre. Still, I think it was a stroke of creative genius for Ray Bradbury to dream up this identity-assuming alien. He had the ability to become any human being in mind and body through telepathic connection. Think of the billions of individuals he could become!
Bradbury definitely created the ultimate character with multiple personalities. This makes his alien a truly unforgettable character. What unforgettable fictional characters with multiple personalities can you think of? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section.
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