Sunday, September 19, 2010

Who am I?: Villain or Hero?


Below, just for fun, I put together a little "Who Am I?" quiz in honor of the villain and hero. It's inspired -- loosely -- by quotes from acclaimed playwright Arthur Miller's essay "Tragedy and the Common Man," 1949.

Btw, this essay came to my attention as required reading for my theatre class. I highly recommend reading, or re-reading if you've done so, the entire essay (it's short) -- with or without your romance writer hat on for perspective. As the title implies, it analyzes how tragedy isn't just a high concept for kings and classical literature but something we can all relate to. In fact, tragedy is optimistic -- perhaps, as Miller points out, even more so than comedy. Give it a read and judge for yourself. :)

My quiz, however, is purely creative license and veers off the point of the essay to delve into the mind of our villains and heroes. In some ways, however, the points Miller makes of identifying with the "common man" and a "hero" I think can also be made to the villain/hero dynamic.

Okay, the quiz. Ready? Which is the best answer?

Number 1. His (hero or villain's) "tragic flaw" is often:

The inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of rightful status.

A. Hero
B. Villain
C. Both A and B.
D. A politician.

Number 2. Best describes?:

The need of a man to wholly realize himself is the only fixed star.

A. Hero
B. Villain
C. Both A and B.
D. An actor.

Lastly, number 3.

[He has] a total compulsion to evaluate himself justly.

A. Hero
B. Villain
C. Both A and B.
D. A saint.

***
What's your judgement call? Hero? Villain? Both? The answer to all, in my opinion, is C. I could be wrong, but I made the rules so I choose to declare C the best suited winner. (That's how I believe professors think sometimes..."best suited in my opinion." *LOL*) Even for #3. The word "justly" may have fooled you into choosing hero, but no, a villain also evaluates or, to use an alternative word, judges himself. He rationalizes his opinion to be just, perhaps saintlike, based on his belief he's the "fixed star," around which the cosmos revolves. Of course, others (meaning other characters, readers, and the author) may judge his opinion is questionable or injust.

I'm not telling you anything new, I realize. We often hear about making the villain redeemable or for giving the hero flaws. We also strive to make them three-dimentional, not two. But, just as Arthur Miller's essay suggests kings and commoners are equally capable of identifying with tragedy, "in no way is the common man debarred from such thoughts and actions" then it is likewise helpful to reflect on how, at the core, the villain and hero compare.

Perhaps only then can we determine how easily they can switch hats from white to black or create realistic turning points. Villan or hero? Or a commoner who fights both sides of his/her nature?

4 comments:

  1. What a great quiz! I haven't read Arthur Miller's essay, but I think I better do that now. :)

    I agree with you on "C" being the best answer for each question. However (here's my inner contrarian again!), for #2 I actually picked Hero instead of both. I focused on the words "wholly realize himself", and I interpreted that to mean growth, I guess. And while villains definitely have goals, I didn't think of them as trying to grow. Mmm. I think you make a great argument though. I am going to ponder this some more!

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  2. Donna, I will give you an A for extra thought. :) I'm so generous. LOL Hmmm. I guess I interpreted "wholly realize himself" as extreme confidence with no room for doubt that he thought himself central to the universe [fixed star]. However, the grammar on #2 gave me pause (that's how he wrote it), and on second thought "wholly realize himself" probably means to fulfil his potential is the only certainty [fixed star]. Humph. Sounds like growth. LOL

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  3. Thanks for the A for my extra credit thinking! LOL You ARE generous!

    I see what you mean about the extreme confidence about being central to the universe. (Yikes -- I think I've dated too many guys like that! LOL)

    So maybe we're both right with the way we've interpreted that "wholly realize himself" phrase. LOL

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  4. Great quiz! I think you're right. It's C - it could apply to either, hero or villain.

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