Good authors know how to pull a reader’s strings. For example, they make you hate a character, then later on they show you a side of him or her that gives you pause.
This brings me directly to Mr. George R. R. Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire.
Through the first two books, Mr. Martin made me hate Jaime Lannister. I mean I absolutely despised him! For those who have not read the series, Jaime Lannister is a knight. While handsome and supremely skilled in the ways of war, he’s also a ruthless, child-killing (well, almost) villain. And there’s even more to it, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not read the series yet. In the third book, A Storm of Swords, Mr. Martin springs his trap! He actually made me respect this villain, even like him a little! I almost feel guilty even writing this knowing what this guy has done! And that’s what makes Mr. Martin great.
It’s the same feeling I got when reading Jack London’s brilliant deconstruction of the Nietzschean Superman in his amazing novel The Sea Wolf. London makes you loathe the implacable sea captain Wolf Larsen, but in his ultimate destruction you learn to pity him. It’s the swing of emotions the writing engenders that helps make the story great.
Plenty of other examples of this surely abound. Care to share a few of your own? Any characters you’ve given up for total louses, but then had to re-think?
Let’s hear about them!
9 responses to “If At First You Hate Them, Wait A While…”
Same here. I hated Jaime and then George had to go and make him kind of a good guy. And in reverse, I liked Theon in the first book, then he turned into a jerk in the second. I was really upset about that.
Scott, how funny – I’m reading Storm of Swords right now, and I have similar feelings about Sansa Stark. I disliked her from the get-go, and kept thinking, “Girl, grow a spine!” while reading. Now, as pages go by and horrible things happen, I’m starting to feel sorry for her. The lady can’t catch a break….
I have not yet read these books, however, I have read authors and watched movies where they have done something similar. What’s really scary to me is they have you sympathizing with a villain often because you can see a little bit of yourself in them. That’s really scary.
Wait until you get to book 4, Sansa starts to learn how to play the “Game of Thrones” a little better.
Oooh, yay! Thanks Scott!
I’m reading The Black Prism and the villain is at once a respectable guy for the good he’s doing yet a despicable guy for the crime he perpetrated. The author is showing how every person has two sides of the coin in a very masterful way.
Ooh, that sounds promising – thanks for the recommendation!
Just finished Book 4 – HATE Cercei! Love Sansa. Also love Jamie. Martin is quite masterful in changing his focus and voice for each character.
Yes, Cercei has become a monster, attended by a coterie of lesser monsters.