Monday, March 8, 2010

A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it.

All this talk of death and different types of love stories is a result, I think, of me recently seeing the movie V for Vendetta. This is my new favorite movie – seriously, why had I never seen it before? It’s got everything I love in a story: drama, romance, disfigurement, death, and revolution. V’s death, however, got me thinking.

I guess that was a spoiler. But the actions that V takes in the first few scenes of the movie cannot realistically end in anything other than his death. Once the first bomb explodes, we know he’s a goner. Likewise, it was a pretty good bet that Evey, V’s at first unwilling accomplice, will make it to the end suffering only the death of her illusion. Thus, while the ending of the movie is tragic, anything else would have been a betrayal of the story.

I consider this type of death to be a good one. It’s not as though we, as readers, want the character to die, but we understand that there is no other way. Es muss sein, as Kundera says. It must be. Or at least, this is how I justify it to myself when I kill off my characters like this.

The inevitable type of death is distinct from the deaths that make me want to throw the book against the wall. The noble sacrifices (generally made for characters who don’t deserve it, a la Sydney in Tale of Two Cities), the freak accidents (damn Sirius), the ones that, in my opinion, just didn’t need to happen. Whether the author does, in fact, feel that these deaths were necessary or just wants to torment his audience is usually unknown.

Another category of death befalls characters who suffer from what my sister and I call Terminal Beth Syndrome. Named after the second youngest little woman, these are characters who are simply too painfully nice to remain living. Their deaths are accompanied, at least from me, with a sigh of relief.

Anyone else want to chime in with an example of a fictional death done well (or badly)?



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