Sunday, May 10, 2015

Monday Musings: The Tragic Character

I hope you brought your tissues, because we might need them today.

SPOILER ALERT: Due to the nature of Tragic Characters, reading this blog any further, without having read these stories in advance, may cause irreparable harm and devastation if you are intending to read these stories, or see the films these stories have been turned into, in the future. Proceed with caution and, please, don't hate the messenger.

I simply do not know where to begin. There are so many tear-worthy characters in this world of pen and paper that finding a place to begin is nearly as traumatic as the tragedies themselves. I think I am going to start with a couple of terribly famous characters that everyone should be familiar with, with all of the books being turned into movies lately, and then I will progress into a few other stories that are just as memorable but perhaps not quite so well known.

One point I wish to make when discussing Tragic Characters, is that these types of characters must always serve a very important purpose to the overall plot, otherwise they leave us feeling cheated. I have read several books over the past few years where certain characters die--and, yes, the shock factor is epic--but I felt so angry and so let down because I could not see the POINT of it. If the author's sole purpose for killing off a favorite character was to make me insufferable angry, then he succeeded, but from a literary standpoint, I feel he may have made grave errors in judgment. I will come right out and say that J.K. Rowling is one of them, although she sets the stage well, because characters die a lot in these books. However, she killed off so many of her most memorable characters in her last book I almost couldn't stand it. Honestly, did she have to kill off so many of them to make her point? Why Fred? Why? I love her books, I do, but you have to admit that Fred Weasley and the Lupins were real tragedies.

1. Thorin Oakenshield from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. 

Tolkien has a gift for writing stories about endearing characters driven to the very edge of their sanity, who somehow find the strength and courage to revert their course at the very end, choosing to do the noble and honorable thing at the risk of their own lives. Many of these characters end tragically, such as Thorin, Boromir and Theodin, while others such as Frodo do not die at the point of a sword, but continue on into the great unknown sadder but wiser souls. Even Gollum can be considered a tragic character, because he was not always the monster he became in the end, although he did not have a change of course at the end. He plunged to his fate, driven by his madness, with no backward glances. Thorin is one of my favorite Tolkien characters which is rather odd, because as a general rule, I prefer the human and hobbit story threads more than the Dwarfish and Elven stories.

2. Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games trilogy.

Let's face it: Finnick's death was more of a shock than any other death in the series. It also had no point, which was perhaps the point of it, I suppose, but I felt terribly cheated over this one. Finnick and Annie had such a unique and heart-wrenching love story, that for it to end so horrifically was unsatisfying for me. I understood the death of Prim, even though I hated it with ever fiber of my being, because it was important to the development of Katniss, although I did not care for the way Katniss's final story developed. I would have liked to see more hope and less despair and drug-induced comas in the final story of this trilogy. I truly wish Finnick and Annie had seen a different end to their story.

3. This next one is perhaps more suited to my upcoming post on Villains, but I grew so attached to this character throughout the book that I simply cannot assign her the role of pure villainy. The heroine/villain from Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

This has become my favorite of Ms. Stengl's novels, because I love the progression of the Dragonwitch throughout the story. Sometimes, I find flashbacks distracting, but in this story I became more wrapped up in the flashbacks than I did in the real time story. This was cleverly, and masterfully, done. And, yes, in the end, I felt the loss of this character but a deep satisfaction, too, because I understood why it had to happen. And the WAY it happened--this story broke my heart, but in a good way.

4. Davy, another character from Peace Like a River

This character's tragedy was not so wound up in his death. He made some choices, choices that some might claim were justifiable and others might claim were not, that put him on a path that he could not return from. His choices affected not only himself but his entire family, setting them on a collision course with a very bad, very hateful man. This is one of the funniest, heart-warming stories, but it will truly make you cry.

5. Since this post is already getting rather long, I will sum up these last few rather quickly. Some of my other favorite characters from classic literature are Rebecca from Ivanhoe (this character suffers a romantic tragedy which I feel counts in this post. I always felt Ivanhoe chose the wrong girl. Sorry, if anyone disagrees, but I am a huge fan of Rebecca) and Eponine from Les Miserables. Another good example of a tragic character is the father from Dicken's Little Dorrit. Without the father's plight in this story, there would have been no story. His tragedy was so tightly wound up in this tale that the story simply could not exist without him.

And as a bonus, for all my fellow geeks! My absolute favorite tragic character from TV is Doctor Who.

Those of you who know Doctor Who will understand that no explanation is needed here. And, yes, the Eleventh Doctor is my Doctor.

Please share some of your favorite tragic characters! I love hearing from all of you!


  1. FINNICK AND ANNIE!!! *sobs*

    Hri Sora is also one of my favorites as well. :)

    And also Artham Wingfeather from the Wingfeather Saga, though whether he has a tragic end or not, I will not say.

  2. Tragic characters are some of my favourites...which kind of concerns me...

    I just finished reading Golden Daughter- many a tragic character in that one. Great book!

    I suppose tragic characters are my favourites because I hope that they find their redemption, hope, and joy at the end of the book. If they do: Oh happy day! If they don' is a stark reminder of what sometimes happens in real life...and maybe readers will be determined to prevent similar tragedies from happening.

  3. As always, I love reading your posts. Eponine is one of my absolutely favorite tragic characters. She's actually my favorite character of all time, tragic or otherwise. Her steadfast love and sacrifice never fail to make me cry. And, definitely Rhi Sora is an amazing character. I loved the way Mrs. Stengl had her story as the frame narrative to the whole book. It is pure genius. And, I wholeheartedly agree about J.K. Rowling's final book. Either she was tired and just wanted the whole series to be over, or something was horribly wrong with her thinking. I mean, the final confrontation was epic enough. Why add so many unnecessary deaths?

    I just finished reading Mary Weber's Storm Siren, an enthralling but infuriating book. Two characters I cannot get out of my head right now are Breck and Colin, siblings who are courageous but also tragic. Since Breck is blind, I was drawn to her even if she was somewhat unrealistically portrayed. What the author did with Breck's character truly shocked and frustrated me.
    Anyway, three other tragic characters I love are Quasimodo from Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Heathcliff from Emily Bronte's Wutherring Heights, and Erik, from Gaston Lourru's The Phantom of the Opera. The novel version of his character is far more tragic than the musical version.

    Thanks for this wonderful post, and I'm looking forward to the one on villains! God bless.