Thursday, May 14, 2009

Protagonist: A Closer Look at Damon Roth

In an earlier post I spoke about the various roles of protagonist, antagonist, hero, villain, antihero, and antivillain. In that post I spoke in general terms about how those roles are filled in my story, Gods Among Men. Today I will delve deeper into the role of protagonist and how my central character, Damon Roth, fills that role.

The protagonist is the central character around which all action revolves. He is the driver of the plot, he creates the situation that everyone else responds to. Often the protagonist is either the hero or the villain, but not in my story.

Damon Roth cannot be the hero because he does not embody heroic ideals. In his past he committed horrible acts for his own benefit. Acts which harmed many, including people he cared deeply about, though he was unable at that time to acknowledge those feelings even to himself. The important point of his character is that he is still doing this. He will again commit and cause atrocities that will harm many including those he cares for.

This makes him seem like the villain. However Damon is not a villain either, at least not now. In his past he was a villain. He committed evil acts to promote himself; to advance his power, wealth, and ambition. Now he is searching for redemption. The acts he commits in Gods Among Men, as terrible as they will be, are intended to save mankind, to save the world and everything on it. To avoid the death of every living thing on the planet he believes, truly believes, that he must follow a ruthless plan that leaves a path of death and destruction in his wake. Some must suffer so all may be saved.

Important in this distinction is the word, "believes".

Just because Damon believes his actions are required does not make it true. His goals are clear, and the threat real. The path he chooses to address this threat and achieve his goals are dictated by the man he was as well as the man he wants to be. If he is successful then mankind and the planet have a hope for survival, not a guarantee. And his failure does not mean the death of hope. His solution is one possible answer out of many. It is the answer he believes in, the one he has the skills and personality to achieve. It is this ambiguity that also prevents him from being either antihero or antivillain.

If his plan were the only hope, with his failure resulting in the inevitable death of all life on earth, then he would be an antihero. A savior who lacks heroic qualities. If his plan were flawed, or the threat non-existent, then he would be an antivillain. A destroyer with at least some noble qualities. Since neither of these conditions are met, he cannot be either antihero or antivillain.

In the end, Damon must face the ultimate test. Successfully saving the planet is not enough for him to achieve the redemption he seeks. If it were, then his actions are tainted by the same self-serving motivations that made him a villain in his youth. To redeem himself Damon Roth must eventually sacrifice himself. His quest requires him to commit an act that harms himself terribly, but guarantees the world is safe.

Gods Among Men opens at the moment when Damon first realizes he must make such a sacrifice. Everything that happens from that point forward hangs on his acceptance of that fact.

Damon cannot be classified as either good or bad, hero or villain, antihero or antivillain. He is a flawed person of tremendous abilities dealing with an immense problem in the only way he knows how. In the end it is the reasons for his actions and how he adheres to those convictions that will determine his true worth.

1 comment:

  1. I like how you explained Damon, who seems a little intimidating at the beginning of the story. Nice complexities. I might try this with one of my own characters.