Dining With Characters: Part 4

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Romantic_Landscape'_by_John_Trumbull,_Dayton_Art_Institute

commons.wikipedia.org

John Trumball

I chose this painting for the mood of calm it suggests, perhaps after a storm.  It seems like an ideal piece to suggest that redemption is possible.

For this particular culinary and fictional interlude, I want to speak with a few characters who have achieved redemption at the end of the work in which they appear: Ebeneezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Leontes from William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Larry Underwood from Stephen King’s The Stand. Some characters are heroic from the beginning of the story through to the end, but some, if not the complete antagonist of the tale, are deeply flawed. In the cases of these three characters they are all deeply damaged, if not morally defective when we see them much earlier in their respective works.

A_Christmas_Carol,_Ignorance_and_Want_by_John_Leech

https://commons.wikipedia.org

I thought given the nature of these men, an afternoon of a few glasses of ale might be the perfect way to discuss what they have learned or how they came to an understanding of what they needed to change in their lives. Scrooge, of course, had to learn not to focus his life on the acquisition and hoarding of material goods, that people and their welfare should be his concern.

Pauline_Implores_Leontes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leontes

Leontes, in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, allows baseless and unprovoked jealousy to overtake him, and he becomes a vicious tyrant who casts out his loving wife and infant daughter.  He also loses his son to death as a consequence of his terrible actions. It is only at the end of the play when he sees a “statue” of his wife Hermione come to life that he is able to understand the enormous errors he has made and their horrible consequences.  He has to face knowing that his actions cause deep and almost unimaginable pain to other people.  At the end of the play, he is a changed man, one who seemingly has grown as a result of his wife’s extraordinary act of mercy.  His redemption can come only through the forgiveness of another.

The_Stand_cover

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stand

At the beginning of Stephen King’s epic The Stand, Larry Underwood is a dissolute rock and roll emerging star, who has fallen prey to temptation, drugs, and a very dangerous crowd. He comes back east to visit his mother just in time for the outbreak of Captain Trips. If you have not read this book, I will go no further with the plot, but I do recommend it highly.  King acknowledged that this book was his homage to Lord Of The Rings, and the same level of epic sweep and individual morality and action occurs here.  For Larry Underwood, his most powerful moment is that of personal sacrifice.

As a writer, a reader, and a teacher, I am very interested in how characters change within the arc of a story.  I would want to ask these three how it felt to achieve their most powerful changes at or near the climax of the pieces.

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20 thoughts on “Dining With Characters: Part 4

  1. I liked this idea – it is a really interesting character arc when an antagonist is reformed by the end of the story. I always felt Leontes got let off REALLY lightly and one of the reasons why THE WINTER’S TALE isn’t one of my favourite Shakespeare plays is the fact that I always wanted him to suffer more! I haven’t read THE STAND, but it sounds really interesting. I’m assuming you’d dine with these characters AFTER their personal epiphanies?

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  2. Nice post. How deep in (choose your word–sin, unpleasantness, moral defect) can a character go before you even care if (s)he’s redeemed? That point seems to be in different places for different people.

    Case in point–I didn’t want Annakin redeemed after he slaughtered children. That was too far for me. Others seemed fine with it. And I certainly can’t argue with the commercial success.

    My favorite growth stories/characters-probably Corwin from Zelazny’s original Amber. Zelazny could even get me to root for Jack the Ripper (or at least his dog) in A Night in the Lonesome October. And Terry Pratchett wrote a hilarious redemption tale in Going Postal, about a con man who goes straight–one day at a time.

    But in general, redemption stories aren’t my thing. I’m more of a fan of the ordinary person who does extraordinary things because the alternative is unbearable, a la LOTR.

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