Why We’re Fascinated By Cecil The Lion and A Dentist From Minnesota

winbydefeat cecil the lion

Animal rights issues aside in the recent slaying of Cecil the Lion by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, now on the lam from the fallout, the symbolism of the event isn’t lost on me as a writer

I mean, here’s a white dentist on a hunt in the wilds of Africa, the dark continent, a no-man’s land for an upper middle-class American. On face value, it’s a place where he’s truly out of his league, adrift on an expansive, endless, rogue ocean .

The stark contrast is a bit like the conscious mind  (the dentist) aimlessly wandering the world of the subconscious (the dark continent). And that’s one of the reason I think we’re so intrigued with the story. Two worlds that co-exist for all of us, but in many ways are strangers to each other.

I know the idea fascinates me as a writer. It’s something I’ve struggled with developing in my characters, particularly my main character Magna Laud, who is unwittingly robbed of a victory that derails her life, likewise, setting her adrift.

It seems to me that when life cheats us, our subconscious knows it and seeks its retribution or at the very least to right the wrong that’s been done to us. But it also speaks its own language, which to our conscious mind can sound a lot like sabotage.

I’ve tried to sprinkle those subconscious motives into odd acts or turns of phrases that seem glaring to those around Magna (including readers) but that she’s oblivious to.

A bit like the dentist who saw no harm in his guide luring an extinct lion named Cecil off the reserve so he could kill it for his pleasure and now is floating in an unknown sea of angry public sentiment and facing the cruel justice of his own subconscious no man’s land.


Author: Liz Johnson, author of Win by Defeat

I'm the other writer named Liz who lives in Frenchtown, NJ, currently working on a novel about winning with integrity that also questions the humanity of a mental health system that asks us to wait until someone we love who is suffering is either violent or a harm to themselves before intervening.

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