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I Remember Elwood

Updated on January 17, 2010

Oh So Smart or Oh So Pleasant

Elwood P. Dowd is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. He is the main character in Mary Chase’s, “Harvey”. In the 1950 movie, James Stewart plays this character to perfection.

Elwood P. Dowd is a 42 year old man, in the post World War II, American Midwest. He has a sizable inheritance (from his mother) so he does not have to work. He spends his time in bars, meeting and talking to people.

And his best friend is a six foot, invisible, rabbit named Harvey (well, six foot, three and a half, let’s stick to the facts). Harvey is a sprite from Celtic mythology. He befriends Elwood one night on the corner of 18th and Fairfax. Since that moment, they become inseparable.

Elwood is not shy about introducing his best friend to anyone that will listen. And of course, he gets some very strange looks at times.

Elwood’s sister, Vita, and her daughter Myrtle Mae, live with him. And when he embarrasses them at Myrtle Mae’s party, they decide it is time to have him committed. What happens after that is nothing short of amazing.

Elwood is my favorite character because of his attitude on life. He is always happy and nothing seems to bother him. He doesn’t even get upset when he finds out that his sister is trying to commit him to an insane asylum. He has a natural ability to “go with the flow”.

And who could not be enthralled with Elwood’s view on reality? “Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.”

He keeps the advice of his mother with him at all times. "Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."

Everywhere Elwood goes he has a wonderful time. He and Harvey bask in the glow of others and receive great comfort. Most do not come back after meeting Harvey, but Elwood reasons that is out of envy.

Over Elwood’s mantle is a picture of Harvey and himself. That is the inspiration for my avatar. My daughter painted that as a gift to me a few years ago.

I think if we tried to be “oh so pleasant” as opposed to “oh so smart”, the world would be much better off. All we can hope for is to one day leave this world a little better place (from our having been here). I am certain that Elwood has done that.


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