What Indiana Jones Can Teach Us About Character Development

One of the impressive characters from the movies who is indelibly imprinted upon our consciousness is Indiana Jones. He’s a hero, sure, a man who can fight who always gets the girl, but he offers much more than that. He is one a many examples of what goes into a well-stocked character.

Let’s face it, you may have the best idea for a plot. But if your characters are not richly developed, you’ll have boring people acting out your interesting story. We who are Creative Writers can learn how to enliven our characters by observing what goes into making Indiana Jones so special to us all.

He Is An Archeologist

Dr. Jones is an archeologist, we all know. But that tells us something about him. In a classroom lecture, he says that archeology is a search for the facts, not truth. Are we to think that he has no interest in truth? He’s not a philosopher, but he lives by a code. He clearly believes in right and wrong. He reminds me of one of Hemingway’s code heroes.

He’s an archeologist, so he is primarily interest in the fact, and these facts help him shape his idea of the truth. He fights not only to find, but of to keep, even regain certain artifacts because they belong in a museum. In other words, everyone should have access to the facts. This allows each person to assess these to come to know the truth.

He Hates Snakes

We learn in the third movie how he came to be afraid of snakes, but as with all good storytelling, there is something more going on. Snakes are iconic symbols of deception and temptation.  Being interested in the facts, a well in a secondary way in the truth, deception is something Doctor Jones cannot abide. I am struck by the number of times he shows his anger because someone lied to him. Such mendacity he will not abide.

Indiana Jones is also a man who has dealt with temptation and successfully overcame it. He is foiled by other archeologists who think artifacts should be used to make themselves rich, such as Belok and Donovan from the first and third movies, respectively. He speaks of riches and glory with Short Round, but he lives a very humble life for one so successful. He has not been snakebit by the appeal for using his craft for himself, but for everyone, just like the artifacts in the museums.

He Hates Nazis

There is a lot of similarity between Doctor Jones’s hatred of snakes and his hatred of Nazis. If ever there were the vipers of humanity, it would be the Nazis. They exemplify deception and the greed of a nation. The Nazis want the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail to help them take over the world.  Indiana Jones is as zealous is keeping that from happening as he is about seeing relics end up in a museum.

His aggression towards the Nazis seem to come from a defense of truth more than the facts. Thus, that side of him he seems to deny becomes an operative force in his life. And still, this is truth based upon facts. It is a fact to Indiana Jones that if the Nazis succeed, then it will be bad for humanity. But specifically, it will be bad for the facts. These propagandists and skilled prevaricators would lie to humanity and keep the facts, and with it the truth, from reaching their understanding.

Like Father, Like Son

I feel as if we see more of the full character within Indiana Jones in the third movie because we add the dynamic of his father. Doctor Jones the elder is clearly seeking truth. He even says that the Grail is truth. And even though there some daddy issues and a few bits of roughness to be worked out in their relationship, with Indiana, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

We see more of his pursuit of truth, even more so than facts in this movie. This is strange in light of his in class emphasis of archeology as the pursuit of facts and not truth. But with the third movie especially we see the Jonses in the ultimate search of, one may say in quest of, the truth of the Holy Grail. Truth guided by the facts seem to be the form that shapes Indiana Jones in his actions and spurs his motivations. As Creative Writers, we should always try to learn from great characters and how they are made, whether in print or on the screen.




Filed under Creative Writing

2 responses to “What Indiana Jones Can Teach Us About Character Development

  1. Commodore

    Beautifully said and perfectly succinct. I couldn’t agree more.

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