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The endless fascination of man when beholding the unknown. Be it defined by opposing creeds and moralities, or something as fickle as tastes and humours, the Other is as attractive as it is repellent. In the volatile beauty which accompanies the meetings of extremities in nature there is a kinship to the clash of opposing but balancing world views.


On an allegorical level, Sheldon can be seen as a Visionary or Outsider, suffering through a sea of darkness and tribulation. Penny is the light or beacon of untormented existence that he is blind to, but is nonetheless ever present to guide him. Taken in herself, she is a Lost Soul, who has found in the Outsider a ship to steer away from wreckage.


The story they arose from, however, tells of the far commoner Underdog and his pursuit of the Prize. It could easily have been that of the Outsider and his quest for Truth, inspired, agonised, frustrated and enlightened by his Muse. Why was it not? Alas, because the Underdog is universally relatable, whereas the Outsider is seen as a man to fear, or ridicule. He can be the buffoon or the curiosity, but as a central protagonist, he belongs in high art alone, which is rarefied and peculiar, and so a similarly rarefied hero is welcomed.


The Outsider’s quest, regardless, will always be more poignant than the Underdog’s. For whilst the Underdog seeks merely to succeed, to triumph within his own world, the Outsider seeks to understand another’s. It is not his world he lives in. For the Underdog, the object of his affection is to be fought for, and won. For the Outsider, that object is a bridge to another universe, and an honourable and challenging companion.

Penny is the Dionysian to Sheldon’s Apollonian, the wild, feckless debauchery of the immediate, versus the pure, arcane wisdom of the hypothetical and abstract. Hedonism versus sober restraint. It is the appeal of chaos jousting with order. It is the most eternal of battles.


The great iconic partnerships are built upon this principle. Heart and Mind. Instinct and Reason. There is a classic aesthetic appeal in complimentary extremes, where two parts of a whole simultaneously balance and conflict. In the relation of Sheldon and Penny, whether it be platonic, antagonistic, comradely or romantic, the deeper pull is because at the core they embody a sense of man’s warring with himself.



by Major Gripe

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