Friday, February 8, 2013


SPOILER ALERT - If you haven't finished Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings do not, I beg, read this blogpost. Be off with you to the library or bookstore and check out both series.

Yesterday, I wrote about Karma and how the idea of Nemesis must exist, internally at least. Later, one comment on the blogpost really grabbed my attention. A friend wrote that once someone does evil, and does it again, the internal guilt eases until the dark deeds are seen as "normal" by that person.

She's right, and it erases my neat metaphor of an interior angry goddess. However, I do wonder about the dreams of the people who live with dark deeds, as well as their lives. If someone is truly evil, truly in the dark side - can anything be satisfactory? Love, life, family, relationships? Do they have friends?

Oh, the fascination of villains. 

My sister, whose intellect I greatly admire, once told me that in her opinion a great book offers redemption for the villain. As an example, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gollum (that strange, brilliant character) is redeemed by one act at the very end, thus saving Frodo from soulless eternity. 

Another example is Snape, although that dude is seriously complex. I wonder as an author, if he developed himself on the page, or if JK suddenly had one of the concept flashes, the kind that hit just as you get into bed and you haven't any paper handy. (Although, of course,   he isn't a villain at all.)

Redemption for the villain ... it's a tricky concept. It has to be organic and come from within (thus bypassing the interior angry goddess) or from a series of events that evolve naturally, like a Bach concerto or the inside of a seashell. The writer has to seriously Fibonacci sequence it. 

If redemption is handed out with a Deus ex Machina fanfare, the gloriously evil villain is compressed into a cardboard cutout. No, redemption itself must come, like karma, from within.

A final word on villains - as I was writing this post, my sister and some of our friends from high school were facebook chatting about a murderer. 

The murderer didn't seem to be evil, so much as STUPID. Her act of violence and terror came from being so dumb that she couldn't comprehend that it would change her life (and, most sad of all, the lives of her kids) forever. 

That is real life, not fiction, and it brings me back to the concept of karma. Probably that sad little murderer will never even understand the depths of what she has done. But will she ever feel soaring happiness of motherhood, the solid comfort of an enduring marriage, or the quiet triumphs that come with ordinary life? 

Of course, all of that is pretty impossible behind bars. But the prison I wonder about is the one in her own mind.


Laura said...

Even though he is one of my favorite characters, I wonder if Snape is ever truly redeemed. Something for a great discussion!

Alison DeLuca said...

Yes, the wonderful twists and turns of Snape's character live on forever.

Connie J Jasperson said...

Awesome post, Alison! You jump-started my brain this morning!

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, Snape's a villain. He's a bully and a jerk. He just happens to work for the good guys *shifty* I am probably one of the minority who see it that way. I feel very sorrry for young Snape. It is his treatment of people like Neville I can't forgive though. And I actually feel the 'in love with Lily' while admirable, takes away from his heroics--he did his heroics for selfish reasons, not because it was the right thing to do. Erm...

It's possible I spent several years of my life debating exactly that... teehee.

I think in real life, your sister is right. MANY true life villains just don't get it. They are stupid or high or grew up in a way where they don't really grasp the alternatives. In some circles, violence is just survival. To me, the REAL villains are the wealthy powerful manipulators who treat most of the population as pawns for their own advancement.

Johanna Garth said...

The more complex the villain the better I like them. But in real life villains aren't all that complex. Which is why they aren't terribly least the ones we usually know about it. Now I'm going to spend the rest of my day on the alert for secret villains!

Unknown said...

I think writers need to give their villains depth and I wrote a blog post on it some time ago. In my opinion, people aren't born inherently evil, it's things that happen to them (or stupidity/drugs/alcohol) that compel them to perform heinous acts. That is something an author can explore when bringing their villain to life.

I have mixed feelings about Snape. Although you see odd flashes of humanity from him through the books, his treatment of the likes of Neville, Hermione, Harry and Ron was totally uncalled for and he was a bully, whereas the one who needed a swift kick up the jacksie (Malfoy) got away with everything. I'm not sure whether he was redeemed in the final book - I guess he was in some ways - but overall the jury is still out!

This is a very thought-provoking post, Allie.