Fictional Character Hall of Fame: John-Boy Walton

  • Name: John-Boy Walton
  • Origin: The Homecoming: A Christmas Story
  • Media: Television
  • Debut: 1971

When watching television, reading books, playing video games, or consuming fiction via any other avenue, I always tend to latch onto certain characters; characters who I feel embody and represent certain values that I hold in high esteem. This has encouraged me to start a new series of posts on my blog, the Fictional Character Hall of Fame. And what better place to start than with John-Boy Walton?

People who know me will know that I find any opportunity I can to make references to popular 1970s TV show, The Waltons – references which they don’t get and don’t even realise until I explain them. One of the biggest reasons that I love the show much is because of its main character, John-Boy.

In its pilot movie, The Homecoming, John-Boy is a fifteen year old boy who wants to be a writer – but he’s embarrassed about that and he keeps it a secret. Throughout the course of the show, we see him grow and develop as he goes to college, becomes a journalist and eventually even a published novelist. It’s quite a journey that we get to share with him.

I first started to get into The Waltons when I was fifteen and as I myself am a writer, I found him very relatable in a lot of ways. But it wasn’t just that I related to him, I actively inspired to be like him. He was endlessly optimistic and passionate about writing and literature in all of its forms. I always love hearing him talk about the authors he admires and it always inspires me to want to write and read more.

He goes through all of the experiences that every young writer faces. He has the highs and the lows, the confidences and the insecurities. We see him sharing his early work with his English teacher after school, getting upset about criticisms from more experienced writers who read his work, feeling ecstatic when he first gets some of his work published. These are all experiences I’ve had too – there were times I felt excited to find myself going through the same things as John-Boy and times when I feel nostalgic when episodes remind me of things which happened earlier in my writing career.

It’s not just that he’s a writer, either. John-Boy stands for a great deal of the things I care very much for: integrity and authenticity in journalism, accepting people of all different creeds and backgrounds and doing whatever you can to help those in need. Whenever he encounters prejudice or injustice, he stands up for right and gives an impassioned (but not aggressive) speech and I can’t help but smile and nod whenever he does.

Of course, I’m mainly talking about the character as portrayed by Richard Thomas (my favourite interpretation), but there is something to be said for his later recasting as Robert Wightman. When John-Boy returned with a new actor, we got a new view of the character – someone who was much more world weary and a lot less self-assured. His passion isn’t gone, but he’s much more withdrawn and he struggles to find success with his writing, unlike his younger self. As sad as it is to see John-Boy weakened by his horrible experiences in the Second World War, these later appearances further develop the character – we see him try and fail and it’s assuring to see that even a hero like John-Boy goes through rough times.

So that’s why John-Boy Walton is the first inductee in my Fictional Character Hall of Fame. I feel it’s very fitting that he should be the first, considering the impact this character has had on my life. Look forward to further entries in future – I certainly look forward to writing them.

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