BETTY STEIN: More responses from readers on past column on literary protagonists
Okay, now we’re back to what you had to say in response to a column.
I loved Nancy’s letter. She wrote that her husband had a lasting reaction to a protagonist. She wrote, “When Michener’s wonderful novel ‘Hawaii’ was published, my husband started reading it. I had already read and raved about it. My husband became so mad and angry at the missionary that he stopped reading the book! His reaction was so strong. I tried to tell him he was missing so much; he was adamant. He absolutely refused to pick up the book and finish the odyssey.” And even though they’ve been to Hawaii a few times, he still hasn’t touched the book again. That is one lasting impression.
Nine-year-old Eli wrote, “I do not like Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus.’ When he creates the monster, he immediately assumes that since it’s ugly, it’s evil. That is a terrible thing to say. He doesn’t even let the monster speak to him. He just thinks because it’s ugly it’s going to hurt people.” Pretty impressive thinking, isn’t it?
Reva read “The Forsyte Saga’ after she saw the PBS films and complained that the films left a lot out. She also wrote, “I have a running hate/love with Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt. Fairness is not his issue. Also, he used women. He has respect for his male peers and his male enemies. No respect for women. However, he is forever on fantastic journeys or exploring oceans. Thrillers just are not women-friendly.”
Lisa mentioned almost everyone in “Wuthering Heights.” She wrote, “Except for Ellen and Cathy, the rest of the characters range from despicable to irksome. Who knew Emily Bronte invented the dysfunctional family?” Then she added Alex from “A Clockwork Orange.” “He’s absolutely horrific. So is the book, because at one point it manipulates you into feeling sorry for him.” Then she mentioned one more: Rohrshach, from “The Watchmen.” According to her, he has a very strong moral code, but it’s insanely twisted.
Tom saw both of the Forsyte Saga films on “Masterpiece Theatre.” He also wrote that Conrad was developing a style that was copied by John Galsworthy – use of narrative perspective. I like Galsworthy’s writing (I hope you will, too), so I’m grateful to Joseph Conrad.
Let’s end with Wendy, who didn’t like the protagonist in “Wicked,” the book. However, she did like her in the stage play. And she very much did not like the protagonists in “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train.” But they are compelling stories that had her turning the pages.
Now take a moment to realize that the authors who created these unlikeable protagonists must have been fairly good writers because these characters were so conceived and brought to life that you reacted as you got to know them. That’s good writing, isn’t it?
Betty E. Stein is a retired teacher and resident of Fort Wayne.