Among his most peculiar and perhaps most futile efforts was a book and educational course on "Characterology" (Chicago, 1920). The character analysis system, "an attempt to produce a scientific, objective system to assess an individual's character", was based on physiognomy and phrenology, the notion that physical traits reflected inherent and acquired traits in the human character. One of McCormick's novel principles was that the human faces could be divided into two basic categories, the convex "masculine" face (sloping forehead, protruding nose, receding chin) and the concave "feminine" face (protruding forehead and chin, small and upturned nose). All people exhibited mixtures of these extremes, and achieving the perfect balance through careful selection of spouses was one of McCormick's main ideas.
This sounds all cute and entertaining, of course, but McCormick managed to spice it all up by adding the usual racial stereotypes into the mix. The extremely detailed classifications of different nose shapes, for example the "Roman", the "Aquiline", and the "Semitic", are infused with moral judgments, but the author saw no need to supply any empirical evidence to prove his claims.
Because I am a pictorial artist and hobby caricaturist, faces and body shapes are very interesting to me. McCormick's book is fun entertainment and a typical sign of its times. When I read it, I realized how much I have been using these physical stereotypes, which have been perpetuated in the last 100 years' explosion of mass culture. Here are some examples of how McCormick's analyses fit the characters of Goldenbird. The physical features are listed according to McCormick's ranking of their importance for the character.
* BRUNET type: "Dark skin, hair and eyes refer to passive love or the desire to be loved, and to an acute sense of taste and appreciation of flavors, and for this reason brunets make excellent cooks." (He hasn't had the chance to show off those skills yet, if he has any...)Andy Kurikka
* FACE: broad at the top, narrowing down ("wedge") - "memory, bookishness, power of imitation, the facile acquisition of languages, and the love of acquiring knowledge from all sources" (Certainly applicable.)
* EYES: "The keen, sparkling 'black' eye is as aggressive among eyes as the Roman nose is among noses; its glance is so penetrating that it might almost be likened to the thrust of a sword-blade. The 'villain in the play' is represented with a swarthy complexion, piercing black eyes, heavy, coarse eyebrows and coal black hair." (Maybe this is why some of my readers have initially "read" Falco as a villain character, although he hasn't really been up to any wickedness until now...)
* NOSE: aquiline; "arched, so that from root to tip it exhibits a gradual and continuous outward curve... if large and forceful denotes many of the traits which belong to the Roman (aristocratic, commanding, aggressive) and Semitic (suave, clever, calculating) varieties but it is usually more refined..." - "Small men frequently have large, forceful noses, and thus the weakness attendant on a diminutive physique is compensated for by aggressiveness and strength of purpose exhibited by the large size of the nose; for strength of purpose is more potent than physical strength in most contentions in life." (Falco would attribute that to the grace of God, not his nose...)
* HAIR: "Black hair, like all brunet signs, suggests Southern descent, the Phlegmatic temperament, passive affection, memorizing power and love of music; it also signifies religious tendencies, love of brilliant colors, judgment of flavors, lethargy, lack of initiative, a tendency to follow rather than lead, and to accept the views of others but not to originate." (Etc., etc... You be the judge.)
*BLOND type: Although McCormick usually describes blonds as "forceful and assertive", the Scandinavians are an exception to the rule: "the extremely cold climate ... develops lethargy... due to the inactivity which accompanies the long winter months." (Poor Finn, he can't get anything right, can he!)Is Falco the charismatic little tyrant, and Andy the stubborn but docile foot-soldier? I think they are the most obvious stereotypes in my character gallery. In another post, I will take a look at Mayann and Lou. Read McCormick's book here, if you can stomach it.
*FACE: A square face expresses wilfulness, perseverance, and obstinacy. "Pronounced breadth of jaws indicates an unchangeable, stubborn mind, and is hence contrary to reason and sound judgment". (If Falco represents the over-civilized Southerner, Andy is clearly the primitive Northerner. Not unintentionally...)
*EYES: Small eyes see less but comprehend more. "Blue eyes are original, energetic, and practical ... they evidence a selective or poor memory and also concentration of purpose, energy, reasoning capacity, shrewdness and sound judgment. Blue and black eyes are antagonistic between members of the same sex but are attractive to the opposite sex. ... Grey eyes ... lack the depth and warmth of the black and the sympathy of the blue. People who possess this variety are inclined to be calculating, systematic, and matter-of-fact." Eyebrows: "Thick, bushy eyebrows ... bespeak masculine traits, as well as a severe, uncompromising nature and conceit."
*NOSE: The "Retrousse", upturned nose, "a feminine type of nose, is often associated with a high vertical or projecting forehead or a projecting chin... the high forehead referring to memory, conscientiousness, and an absorbing mind, the projecting chin to wilfulness, obstinacy, economy, passive or receptive affection, and memory, the prominence of the chin balancing the lack of force suggested by the concave nose. ... When the phlegmatic temperament is present, the Retrousse refers to a serious, non-demonstrative, reserved and non-energetic character."