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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Redeeming an unlikeable character (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Redeeming an unlikeable character
InarticulateBabbler
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quote:
Yes, that's what I said. It is his ONLY loyalty. Your point being?

That's not what you said, you said: Unlike Jaime, he has no great loyalty.

So my point was that he has a great loyalty.

quote:

Obviously, you find him redeemed.

Not necessarily, but I was pointing out that more than his hand was offered for atonement (not redemption).

quote:
And when did Jaime show some mercy to someone who was vulnerable?

Uh...Tyrion.

quote:
IB, he wasn't writing about the REAL middle ages so making it the way he did was his choice, not something he had to do.

Yes, he made a choice to use the grittier, uglier parts of medieval times--points that have been consistently smoothed over--to breathe life into a fantasy realm. So what? I'm sure he intended to show human nature. And there is a lot more accurate in Martin's novels than you seem to be aware of. As for the armor and fantasy weaponry, that doesn't matter as far as the people that use it. That's what he's more true to.

quote:
And it is the reader who is led to condemn Cersei which is different that her being condemned by other characters which would fit in with what you're saying.

What? She's condemned by other characters. That's part of how "the reader" is "led" to condemn her. (I think it's funny that you could redeem Cersei, simply because she's a woman, and you feel the author--not the story--has dealt her unjustly.)

quote:

IB and I are arguing again. All's right with the world. *breaths a sigh of relief*

Yes, there is balance again.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited July 24, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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Besides, it effected you enough to stir you up AND keep you reading all three books.
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JeanneT
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It's four books, IB, not three. And that's not what kept me reading.

OF COURSE, there is more to his books than that. I never said otherwise. He happens to be a marvellous writer.

We are discussing one particular part of his (and other) books--are evil or unlikeable characters also redeemable--and if so, how and when?

If you think that's all there is to SoIaF, I happen to disagree there too. LOL

You might go back through my posts and notice the number of times I mention that I consider him the best and the most influential fantasy writer since Tolkien. What? And I dare say I think there are things he might have done differently? Yes. Yes, I do dare.

Edit: And I did not say Tyrion had no loyalty. Here, I'll quote myself:

quote:
At the same time the fact that Tyrion is loyal to one person, Jaime, shows that he is capable of loyalty even though he doesn't usually show it much. He doesn't have much reason to.

The one and only loyalty that Tyrion has is to Jaime. I'm not sure that it is that much returned, though.

By the way, I never saw that Jaime offered Tyrion any mercy. He didnt ABUSE him the way the rest did. But did he keep others from it? Did you do anything to make his lot more sufferable other than not making it even worse? Not that I saw. In fact, I always thought Tyrion's loyalty was somewhat misplaced, but could you blame him since Jaime was one of two people in his entire life who hadn't treated him with scorn and cruelty?

(I love those books and have a certain fondness even for the parts I don't much like. I'll do the same thing with LotR. I can tell you the parts that I think Tolkien might have done differently--actual characters as women instea of cardboard cutouts? Believable steeds? Not putting in reams of bad poetry? But that doesn't keep me from reading and loving the thing.)

Further edit: I am, you must realize, one of those annoying people who will with great enthusiasm argue both sides of any argument. *grins*

Well, almost any argument anyway.

[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited July 24, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited July 24, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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quote:
It's four books, IB, not three.

LMAO. I set you up with that. I knew that you couldn't resist.

I hope you don't think I'm taking this argument too seriously. I've read the books, too--and have great respect for Martin.

quote:
I never saw that Jaime offered Tyrion any mercy. He didnt ABUSE him the way the rest did. But did he keep others from it?

Yes. Clash of Kings, where it begins to get deeper into Tyrion, it shows why Tyrion is so faithful to Jaime.


As far as quoting:

quote:
On the other hand, I am perfectly willing to forgive Tyrion for murdering his father, as well as being a bit of a drunk and whoring a lot. (Hard to avoid that word when you're discussing Martin's novels. lol) He would never rape and he has been put-upon and suffered about as much as it is possible to, so it's hard not to sympathize with him even when he's being awful.

And unlike Jaime, he has no great loyalty--remember, he murdered his father. I don't mind that at all.


...I did quote you--in point of fact.

quote:
If you think that's all there is to SoIaF, I happen to disagree there too. LOL

Could you define "that's" in the above comment?

I'm not saying you don't like Martin. I'm saying that what disturbs you is meant to, and it doesn't keep you from reading the next book (as I illustrated by misnumbering them).

quote:
Further edit: I am, you must realize, one of those annoying people who will with great enthusiasm argue both sides of any argument. *grins*

And you are easily excitable, too.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited July 24, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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And, you do realize that HBO bought the film right, don't you?
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
And, you do realize that HBO bought the film right, don't you?

And you realize, of course, that all that means is Martin gets a nice chunk of cash. Lots of film rights for lots of books are bought all the time without films ever actually being made.


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InarticulateBabbler
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True.

However, it looks like it could be more.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited July 24, 2008).]


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JeanneT
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Set me up? I've obviously read them. Not only did I not deny that, I made it perfectly plain that I have. Any set up was in your mind I'm afraid. I could hardly discuss them in depth if I hadn't read them. In fact, I've typed large portions of The Game of Thrones in order to study it in depth. (Can you say the same? )

I still say that Tyrion's loyalty is very limited. The only thing or person he is really loyal to is Jaime. This I stand behind my statement that if you like Tyrion, it isn't because of his vast loyalty.

I think it is because of his refusal to hurt those who are vulernable. He could have hurt any number of people--could have done awful things to Sansa and considering what a whiner she is, I would have been seriously tempted just to shut her up.

You also like him because you have to sympathize with his suffering.

So when he does bad things, as he frequently does, you forgive him. Which was what we were discussing, not whether or not I like or respect Martin (which I do).

And I have read the portions that supposedly go into the reasons for Tyrion's loyalty to Jaime, obviously. Jaime betrayed him in the matter of his marriage--lied to him about his wife being a whore. He lied to him their entire lives about that. I'd say Tyrion's loyalty is very much misplaced.

Edit: I rather doubt that he made more than if he had sold them for regular movies. Considering their best-seller status, that was pretty inevitable in my view. I have some hope that HBO may do a better job with them than a regular movie company though.

Edit: Of course, you're not taking the debate seriously, IB. Neither am I. It's fun arguing these things. This is strictly for the fun of it.

One more edit: It's a lot of comfort to me to read With Morning Comes Mistfall which he published about 30 years ago (nominated for Hugo I think) and see how much he's improved over the years. Because reading his writing in SoIaF makes me whimper with jealousy.


[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited July 24, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited July 24, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by JeanneT (edited July 24, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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quote:

I have some hope that HBO may do a better job with them than a regular movie company though.

Did you check out the links? Martin's writing the scripts. Apparently, it's going to be like Rome, which waswell done, and A Game of Thrones will be season one. Martin is also co producing, so I have more confidence that it will be awesome than I would if Hollywood hacked...I mean, got hold of it. I might actually have to get HBO if that's the case (and start watching TV).


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JeanneT
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IB, sometimes you and I are enough alike that it scares me. I'm exactly the same. My tv isn't even connected (although I do have one. lol)

For that I'll get HBO.


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kings_falcon
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I think I have to dig up another old post I started way back when were we were talking about "unforgiveable" actions. In fact, I think I started it when I started this one to avoid the rape discussion here. I think we also decided last time that my use of "redemption" probably wasn't the best word choice. Anyway . . .

So, I think there is a general concensus that someone we thought was an antagonist can be shifted to a protagonist. Some of the traits that came up to do this are loyalty and love. Anything else that has helped moved your thinking and why? With what characters did the attempted reinventing fail with you for and why? What makes us want the "bad guy" to win?

IB - the original Dark Knight comics were very dark. He wasn't the Adam West goody goody Batman. I actually like that the movies are moving closer to the original Dark Knight model, but haven't seen the newest yet.


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annepin
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Geez, I almost hate to interrupt here, but back to the question at hand.

quote:
Annepin, what's the difference in your mind?

Between redemption and sympathy? For me, redemption means the negative action or quality of the character has been canceled out. He or she is now the hero, not just in literary terms, but in the sort of good vs. evil terms. Sympathy simply means that I like the character more despite his flaws because I understand where he or she is coming from.

The traits that would attract me are loyalty, a strict code of ethics, even if it's not necessarily the ethics of the rest of the culture, compassion toward animals and/ or kids (yes, I'm a sucker), intelligence, a willingness to learn and adapt based on new information they have. One of the classic redemptions seems to be a character who is out to get money or whatever, but quickly realizes they actually do care about other things. This model fits Han Solo and Mal.

Jaime for me isn't redeemed, just more sympathetic because I see him changing, but not necessarily changing enough. Through Brienne he's beginning to feel compassion etc. but he has a long way to go. The loss of his hand, in my mind, just gives him an excuse to whine and feel sorry for himself, though in a way it's that which provides the inciting incident for him to reassess himself, simply because the things he took pride in he could no longer do. Admittedly, I'm a bit fuzzy on the events of the third book.

The Annikin character for me was a failed redemption, if that were Lucas's goal. Partly because the movies were just so awful. But even knowing where he comes from we see only how he choose the dark side.

I don't know about the original Batman series, but I know the Dark Knight movies are based on Frank Miller's series, which is excellent, and I think an interesting look at the issue of redemption. In The Dark Knight Returns, Wayne is by no means a purely heroic, sympathetic character. He's driven to kill the baddies by a psychosis almost as strong as that which drives the baddies to kill innocents. Miller pushes the borders of ambiguity all the time. Yet Wayne continues to be a sympathetic character because he's so driven, he does have such strong ethics of his own.

Jayne in my mind isn't redeemed, just rendered more sympathetic. But he was also the funnest character of the lot, I always thought.

I'm coming up short on book examples of redemption...

Irredeemable events:
Rape, torture, killing children, killing for its own sake.


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InarticulateBabbler
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Frank Miller coined the phrase: The Dark Knight. He was actually contacted by earlier "scribes" who complained that he was single-handedly destroying the character that they created. I think he was right in his thinking: If a nine-year-old boy is forced to watch as his parents are murdered, it's going to f**k with his head for a long time. That was the motivation in him turning vigilante.

It's like Tim Vigil's Faust, but he's far more insane. That's the premise, a delusional psychotic (our hero) is in a mental institution, and two doctors work with him. One he falls in love with, the other tries to murder him. he breaks free, and starts to see any thug-like criminal, the murderous doctor or and authorities that try to restrain him as demons. We are in his PoV, so it is illustrated for us. Reality and psychosis blur, and by the end, we don't know if the devil he's fighting is real or imagined. Theough are hero cuts his way through his enemies, we still root for him (again he's exceedingly mistreated).


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Zero
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Being the "idealist" that I boast too often to be, my offcial stance is that no one, given enough time, is irredeemable.

But someone above mentioned murdering children and ... that gave me very profound chills. It is hard for me to stand by my ideal in the face of such a powerful counter example. Children represent something so ... pure to me, and seeing them ruined in any way drives me to insane levels of berserker rage.


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RobertB
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Surely there has to come a point where a character becomes irredeemable if the plot is going to make sense. It's hard to see how you could redeem, say, Dracula! Where more realistic characters are concerned, would a sociopath be redeemable?
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Zero
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I guess it becomes an interesting question of what redeemable means. I think a person can commit a crime so heinous that they can never make restitution for it, such as slaughtering innocent blood.

But suppose he lived on, and through the course of his life he changed, and it cripples him to think of what they did, and he devotes the rest of his life to serving others as a fraction of his penance. Perhaps he can never be fully redeemed because he can never fully take back his actions, but he can become a good person again, can't he?


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debhoag
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Saul and Paul.
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Zero
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Speaking of fiction... did the whole Saul and Paul thing work for everyone?
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kings_falcon
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The first step to redemption is wanting to be redeemed. If the character who did the unspeakable thing never sees it as wrong, they can't be redeemed. I so need to bump the other thread on this topic.

Anyway, the worse the "crime" the harder the redemption.

There was a Xena Warrior Princess where one of her freinds/former lovers was just as cold blooded and ruthless as she was before she realized what she was doing was wrong. He only made the decision to redeem himself in the last act (sacrificing himself to save an innocent) and wasn't allowed to move on to the Elysian Fields because he hadn't done enough good to offset the prior evil.

Spoiler - Final Xena Episode

Actually, she's a good example. The series starts after she's reformed and trying to do good BUT she was a very evil person for a very long time. When she was a warlord, she was trying to rule the world. She slaughtered innocents, and villages because she could.

Despite this, we liked her in the series because she's trying to reform, she's formed real friendships and cares about others.

In the last episode, learn that her carelessness, hatred and grief destroyed an entire city. Without her final death, the souls that were lost by her actions could never sleep.To redeem that act, she refuses to be resurrected.

end Spoiler


Dracula could be redeemed if he saw what he did as wrong and wanted forgiveness. He'd have to pay a HUGE price for it, but, I think it's possible.

As a culture, we agree that some acts can only be repaid or redeemed by death.


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RobertB
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Some people do seem to be unable to see their actions as wrong. OK, you can tack all sorts of psychological language onto that, but I'm not sure it gets us very far. In fiction they're usually portrayed as 'the monster' or 'the villain'; something out there to be destroyed, and provide a story in the process. I wonder whether there's any other way to handle them.
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kings_falcon
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Right. And that's not the people I was talking about in the original post.

The premise is: if you originally believe a person is the antagonist or they are just plain "unlikeable" can your view of them be shifted by what they do, suffer or experience?


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JeanneT
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Which is why I brought up Jaime and Tyrion in SoIaF. Jaime in particular is seen as dispicable in the beginning.

I do think that you put your finger on one of the problems with Jaime's "redemption." I don't think he ever is shown as having learned that what he has done is wrong.


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djvdakota
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Redemption can come to a character simply through paying the natural consequences of his actions.

Is there not, in the moment of her death, just the slightest twang of the heartstrings for the pathetic nature of Snow White's wicked queen? Sure she gets what's coming to her, but a life wasted is a sad thing.

Also, on the topic of sympathetic characters:

A sympathetic character is not necessarily one we feel sorry for or 'sympathize' with. A sympathetic character is one we can 'relate to' on some level.

Any good villain is one that the reader can relate to, and any villain we can relate to is one we can redeem in our minds, one we can cry for when he gets his comeuppance. Just as no well-structured hero is all good, no well-structured villain is all bad, or a cardboard cutout evil figure with no redeeming qualities. That kind of antagonist is for original fairy tales that lack characterization basics such as character motivation.

So, yes, we can cry for Eponine because we can relate to her, even the dark side of her, because we know her. She is in us on some level. She makes choices that we might make given the same set of circumstances.


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J
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kingsfalcon said: "Dracula could be redeemed if he saw what he did as wrong and wanted forgiveness."

I have to disagree specifically and generally. I wrote an essay about this here: http://www.theonlyorthodoxy.com/2008/05/04/dracula-a-treatise-on-chastity/

There is a special class of characters that are unredeemable because they are more than mere story actors--they are symbols. They cannot be redeemed, because the acts and attitude necessary for redemption would destroy their symbolic, and thus their actual, literary existence. Dracula is a foremost member of this special class of character. He is a literary symbol of completely unrestrained desire. The moment Dracula would desire redemption, he would no longer be Dracula, and the novel would lose the bulk of its symbolic and thematic value.


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Zero
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I agree with J, in terms of the structure and value of the novel.

But in terms of real life, suppose Dracula was a real person and not some kind of literary symbol. And suppose he made efforts to "repent" to change his ways and seek to undo all his evils as best he can. And feels absolute remorse for his wickedness. Is he still forever unredeemable?


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kings_falcon
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J- nice article.

I will continue to kick myself over the word "redeeming" in the title to this post. Also note, I said "unlikable" not evil. Anyway . . .


Zero -

I don't think Dracula'd be forever unredeemable based on your "facts." The novel wouldn't be the novel we know if he was seeking redemption but, that's a different issue.

Dracula has a reason for accepting the bargain to become a vampire. That reason is, to me, a potential pathway to redemption. J sees Dracula as a symbol of unrestrained desire. I tend to see him as a symbol of the lenghts people will go for love. Maybe the two views aren't that far apart. Either way, and not to provoke the symbolism discussion here, if his motives and reactions were more fleshed out, couldn't he become the protagonist?


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J
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A character with the same name, attributes, description, and history could become the protagonist of another story, and could probably be made likeable in that other story. But Dracula could never be made likeable in the novel Dracula (except to a depraved mind that likes what Dracula symbolizes). Sometimes, plot or theme locks a character in beyond even the author's capacity to change.
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kings_falcon
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J- absolutely true. In the novel, Dracula can't be redeemed without rewriting it or writing several more books with him as a character.

Snape, from Harry Potter, might be a good example. He was unlikeable. He was an antagonist in most of the books. There were times you wondered if he was evil. But, in the end, did you like him? Was he a protagonist by the end of the series? Did you want him to finish the series in some sort of truce/peace with Harry? Did you want him to get the girl? Any girl? Did you buy the attempts to recast him from the first book through the last? Why or why not?

Your essay can be no longer than 20 pages, and mind 70% of your grade is dependant in your essay.


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Zero
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True if he was the character I described it would be an entirely separate story, the fact is he wasn't.

KF, Snape was actually my favorite character throughout the entire series, because I identified early on that he was "good inside" but playing the fence out of dangerous necessity. It's a real crime that his death was so stupid and meaningless. He should have died, certainly, but in a more meaningful way. What a waste of what was perhaps her best character.

[This message has been edited by Zero (edited July 30, 2008).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Fred Saberhagen wrote a book with Dracula explaining his actions--for example, he kept bleeding Lucy because Van Helsing was giving her the wrong type of blood and that was what killed her. I believe the title was AN OLD FRIEND OF THE FAMILY.
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Robert Nowall
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I think there were at least four Saberhagen Dracula titles...one explaining his origins, one dealing with the events of Bram Stoker's "Dracula", one direct sequel to that, and one paring Dracula up with Sherlock Holmes. Interesting stuff, the way it all made the villain the hero and the heroes the villains...
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