Friday, April 8, 2011

Can a Main Character be both an Antagonist and Protagonist?

Jessica Nelson over at BookingIt Blog, posted an interesting piece about rooting for the good guy....the guy that starts out as a bad boy. You know he is the hero in the story, and so as you read about him you begin to hope he will turn himself around and do the noble things a protagonist should.

An example for me is Rochester in Jane Eyre, perhaps my all-time favorite novel. He is dark, broody, and self-centered. He is also crushed inwardly. If you haven't read it, it is a masterpiece of human flaws and human passion. Everything is wrong about him. And so you root for him in hopes he will be redeemed by the gentle soul of Jane.

Another is Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. In the BBC 2009 film version, I rooted for Heathcliff as I did in the 1939 version with Sir Laurence Olivier. Sir Laurence played a kinder Heathcliff. But British actor Tom Hardy brought out the worse in this character. Heathcliff slipped slowly, then rapidly when Cathy married Edgar Linton, into madness. He too was dark, broody. But he was also vengeful and extremely cruel. In the end, he is never redeemed from his demons. The character I ended up rooting for, and feel sorry for, was Isabella.

If you were to write a sequel to Wuthering Heights for the Christian fiction marketplace, how would you tell Isabella's story?

Have you read a classic where the characters took on the roles of both protagonist and antagonist?


Cecelia said...

I really can't think of one, right now. I read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights...but that was ages ago...probably about thirty years ago. It's hard to recall all of the details. I recall seeing an old Jane Eyre movie and I believe Elizabeth Taylor was in it and she was a little girl? I believe she was one of the kids in the orphanage and she died? I beg your pardon if I'm getting this mixed up with another movie. I'm not a big fan of classical movies...
~Cecelia Dowdy~

Rita Gerlach said...

Cecelia, you are right. Liz Taylor played Jane's best friend at the girls school and died.

Jessica Nelson said...

Oh yes, I adored Rochester! Such a romantic story. :-)
I haven't read too many classics but I've always loved Victoria Holt novels. I never knew until the end if the hero was really the hero (but he usually was!). :-)

Dec said...

Is there a literary term for this type of character?

rv said...

Richard III is a classic example of a pro-anta-gonist :)