It is already late spring, the time of year when I start watching more closely, the sunrise and sunset times each day, because I know that within a few short weeks, our daylight hours will already begin to shrink. Yes, it will be some time before we appreciate how much the minutes add up per day, but by keeping watch, I'm reminded to make as much as I possibly can, of each and every day of spring and summer. (I suspect this is due to the fact that I live where it seems that winter drags on for six long months. In truth, it isn't quite that long, but at times it feels like it ...)
Now, with June upon us, we Quills are gathering once again to bring you a joint post. This time each of us will share with you, five of our favorite antagonists.
Before digging in further, it only seems right to take a closer look at the terms “protagonist” and “antagonist.” “Protagonist” is defined as “the principal character in a work of fiction.” Note that the definition does not say that the protagonist is the hero of the story. “Antagonist” is defined as “someone who offers opposition.” This definition does not say that the antagonist is a villain. So it is conceivable that the principal character of a story is a villain, while the antagonist of the story is actually the hero. Hmmm … I’m trying to think of a story in which that idea plays out in just that manner ... Can you help me out here? Maybe my fellow Quills can do that. Parker? Robin?
Let's first see what P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, has for us.
Here we go! (Don't forget to follow the links to my fellow-Quills' sites for more.)
Bad guys. Villains. Antagonists. That's what we're writing about this month. Each of our trio of writers is forwarding our top five baddies for you to consider. And we challenge you to prove us wrong by submitting your own compilations. Let the listing begin!
Mine is a list of truly evil baddies, fantastic villains, complex antagonists, and lovable toad. In the style of FilmFisher's "Undefended" articles, I'm putting these forward with only minimal comment.
Thank you, Parker!
Now, Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, will share some of her favorite antagonists with us. Take it away, Robin!
Oh, dear, so many villains, so few spaces in the list…! Granted, antagonists are not always villains, per se, but someone or something manifesting opposite actions, thoughts, or motives than the protagonist. Still, I’ve chosen to lean toward the villainous in my list. I enjoy the motivations and thought processes of characters over, say, weather or landscape. Weeks of mulling over various evil qualities and their deployment (Ho! Launch the greed! Commence the revelation of dark secrets!) gave me a list.
And now for my thoughts!
Since the antagonist in a story is frequently a villain, the first antagonist/villain that comes to my mind is … Now, don’t laugh. It’s Cruella deVil. There are goods reasons for this. Well, good reasons to me, anyway. You see, Cruella, as played by Glenn Close (who I had the great pleasure of seeing on Broadway a couple years ago) gets to wear the most amazing things! I’d like to try some of the things she wore—perhaps with a bit less in the shoulder padding department, to be sure—but aside from that, who wouldn’t have fun dressing up like Cruella from time to time? Seriously though, Cruella is deliciously naughty, and thoroughly egocentric. It would be so much fun to play her character. (I’ll have to see if I can get a local theater group to do it. Is that even possible? I suppose it could prove difficult to cast the dalmations, so I’m thinking "no" … Hmmm. Curses.)
I think I have a theme going here, because my next antagonist is from a role I find to be a bit similar to that of Cruela deVil. This is one that Meryl Streep played, in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Call me shallow, but my reasons are similar: Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly got to take advantage of a terrific wardrobe. But the best part about this character is that she is so completely into herself. Are you laughing yet? Yes, well, my reasons may be a bit silly, but I can explain. You see, it wasn’t that long ago that my youngest left the nest after my husband and I had spent three decades raising our children. I am so proud of my three young ones. Each is an amazing person. Still, just now my goal is to put a new theme into play before I’m too old to do so. It goes like this: “It’s my turn now.” So maybe that accounts for my finding such joy in these thoroughly self-absorbed characters. They actually put into action something that I envy at least a little bit, although I don’t think I could under any circumstances, do what they do as completely as they do it.
My fifth and final choice is Javert, also from Les Miserables. Javert is a genuine antagonist—even if not exactly a villain. He is obsessed with pursuing and convicting Jan Valjean. I think that in his deepest heart, Javert wants to do what is “right,” but his mission blinds him. Perhaps this quote best sums up this character:
His mental attitude was compounded of two very simple principles, admirable in themselves but which, by carrying them to extremes, he made almost evil – respect for authority and hatred of revolt against it.
Javert is unable to appreciate how Jean Valjean could be guilty of an offense (minor though it may be and notwithstanding that it causes no genuine harm to others), while Valjean can also be a good man on a day-to-day basis, and one who makes the lives of others, better.
Victor Hugo provided the rationale for Javert’s conduct. Having been born in a prison to criminal parents, Javert became an officer of the law because of his hatred for the very group from which he came. Hugo tells us that Javert’s life is/was one of “privations, isolation, self-denial, and chastity—never any amusement.” Perhaps Javert is one of my favorites because Hugo made him so understandable. So once again I say—and I say it every chance I get: if you have not yet read Les Miserables, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Your introduction to the antagonist, Javert, is just one of the many, many reasons to check out this great, great classic.