One down…

14 Apr

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107 to go.

I found the finale a little disappointing, to be honest. Narrative theory would suggest a story builds towards a final overcoming of the major obstacle facing the protagonist, and Cold Comfort Farm sets this up to be Flora’s confrontation with Aunt Ada “I saw something nasty in the woodshed” Doom. Having been built up over the preceding chapters, it’s rather a non-event. We don’t see what Flora and Aunt Ada talk about during their hours-long discussion, but it seems to amount to Flora saying “Why don’t you do something fun for a change?”. Mind you, maybe the anti-climax is another deliberate poke at common writing practice.

I’m glad that eventually someone called Flora on being an interfering busybody. I find it an interesting quirk of stories; because novels are often presented from the protagonist’s viewpoint (whether written first-person or not), you side with the protagonist, even when they are engaged in actions you consider to be questionable (behaving like an anti-hero rather than a traditional hero).

The same doesn’t hold true for other characters; you are not presented with their perspective – you don’t “get inside their head”, if you will – so you can still maintain a certain distance, thinking “that’s a horrible thing to do”. You often think that with the antagonist (typically when they are indulging in a kick the dog* moment) as they are opposing “your” character.

With the protagonist, you are, in a way, participating in their unfolding story, sharing their struggles and their triumphs, but also potentially making you an accessory to their crimes. I’m curious as to whether this holds true for things that you consider morally repugnant (assuming there are any novels where the protagonist commits some such atrocity). Essentially, is there a point at which an anti-hero ceases to be sympathetic? I rather suspect there is, given people’s apparent reactions to some stories, but where that point is probably varies depending on your personal morals (how bad you consider a particular action to be) and how well written the story is (how deeply engaged you are).

* Beware that this link goes to a site called “TV Tropes”, which is fascinating (if occasionally crude), but also a well-known timesink.

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Posted by on April 14, 2010 in Cold Comfort Farm


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