Batman. Dirty Harry. Scarlett O’Hara. Hamlet. Gollum. Bad Master. Sydney Carton.
Often described as a literary or cultural trope, the antihero is probably older than Odysseus. Older, even, than most classically accepted hero-types.
Today, in order to illustrate a few points, I’ve joined forces with YA wonder-artist, fifteen-year-old Kristina Fiscaletti, (of the amazing Fiscaletti clan) who has graciously shared her own sketches of the tragic antihero, Bad Master. *Bows to Kristina.*
Dark, brooding, or simply willing to defy cultural norms to achieve a goal, a true antihero reflects humanity’s bleaker, almost repulsive traits. Yet we love our not-quite-heroes and heroines.
Simple. Antiheroes are closer to true human nature than classic heroes. Antiheroes embody our secret weaknesses and often act out our defiant hidden impulses, which are usually—with good reason—frowned upon by civilized societies. Most antiheroes don’t accept oppression meekly. (But neither do strong classic heroes!) And a true antihero often reveals noble characteristics, usually with a courage most of us mere mortals only wish we possessed.
Often, antiheroes are called upon to save heroes—to brave harm or death for the sake of good. Remember the alcoholic Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities? As he is facing death for the sake of his beloved and her hero-husband, he concludes, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known!" *R. J. searches for tissue. Blows nose.*
By contrast, Antiheroes are often resentful if they’re rescued, particularly if the rescuer is—through some cruel twist of the author’s scheming imagination—an erstwhile foe, or *worse* the hero! (For pity’s sake, doesn’t the hero draw enough accolades?)
Most important to the author, however, is that an antihero’s tempestuous nature presents opportunities for redemption, usually at a pivotal moment in the plot, or even at the story’s epic climax. Better yet, the antihero might be allowed to remain an unresolved mystery to readers.
See those tears? Are they real? Dare we allow ourselves to hope for our beloved antihero’s redemption?
Stay tuned, Dear Reader!