Monday, May 14, 2012

Heroes and Villains

Part 6: Resolution with Redemption

It doesn’t always have to end badly for villains. Some great stories conclude with redemption. This doesn’t mean the protagonist doesn’t still have a fight. Stories without a struggle don’t attract readers or viewers. This is why redemption usually comes at the very end of the story. The most well-known example is Darth Vader. Up to the very last moment the audience believes Vader will kill Luke Skywalker. The outlaw Ben Wade in the movie versions of 3:10 to Yuma is another example of an action story where a villain finds redemption.

Antagonist redemption is tricky to pull off because the protagonist needs a bitter foe right up to the climax of the story. This is why redemption is used more in literary fiction. The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe is an example of redemption in a literary work, except it would be more correct to say that Flanders was an antihero rather than an antagonist. Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is another antihero who is really a bad guy until he fesses up to his misdeeds. Edmund in Shakespeare’s King Lear is rotten almost to the very end. In my mind, these are really stories where the antagonist has the leading role and the protagonist is the inner self constantly being pushed down until it finally struggles to the surface to award redemption to our antihero.

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