Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gonads

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Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gonads

Postby Dave_Wise » Sun May 30, 2010 11:39 pm UTC

I got into a conversation about Tess of the D'urbevilles with my mate Amelia recently, and we came to the conclusion that two people in the books were largely to blame for what happened, and in fact come over generally as a pair of twits. Firstly, Angel (the bloke she was supposed to marry) was a sanctimonious little tit who ruined everything with his silly moralising. But secondly, and perhaps more controversially, that bloody narrator. If he'd kept his fat trap shut about the d'urbeville thing, then none of it would have happened.

This prompted a discussion of several other literary heroes who actually, on closer examination, turn out to be gits:
Achilles- he spends almost the whole poem sulking, and then kills hector in a fit of pique after he allows patroclus to be killed through his immature self-indulgence. What an arsehole.

Hamlet- Mopes, whines and pontificates for ages, then when he finally pulls his finger out of his ass, he gets himself killed almost instantly. He should have raised an army against his uncle from the word 'go'. But no, he'd prefer to walk around with a long face and take it out on some poor girl.

King Arthur- It's all very well, but ultimately he came to grief purely because he couldn't keep it inside his trousers.

Tom Jones- For the love of christ, is there anything so colossally stupid that he won't do it? No trap so obvious that he won't walk into it with an imbecible grin?

There were others, but they've slipped my mind. Any more you can think of?
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Jahoclave » Thu Jun 03, 2010 2:57 am UTC

Dave_Wise wrote:Hamlet- Mopes, whines and pontificates for ages, then when he finally pulls his finger out of his ass, he gets himself killed almost instantly. He should have raised an army against his uncle from the word 'go'. But no, he'd prefer to walk around with a long face and take it out on some poor girl.

Well, I disagree. First off, where's he going to get this army? Second, Hamlet has no actual way of knowing if the ghost is being honest with him. Third, he recognizes that seeking revenge will cause more than his and his Uncle's downfall. Now Othello and Desdomona, fucking tards.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:15 am UTC

I mean, isn't part of the point of heroes and protagonists at large that they are flawed? Isn't that what makes them interesting?
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby meatyochre » Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:33 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I mean, isn't part of the point of heroes and protagonists at large that they are flawed? Isn't that what makes them interesting?

Well, in decent literature, yes. But a lot of the literature I see these days just doesn't compare. And regardless if a protag's hubris is an expectation (or trope), it's still interesting to discuss!

The main kid in Lord of the Flies, why can't I think of his name? I just read it. Anyway, he keeps siding with Piggy and it angers me. Piggy is the kind of character everybody loves to hate, though.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Felstaff » Thu Jun 03, 2010 10:57 am UTC

Ralph. The level-headed one.

I spent the whole book wondering how Jack could be such a totalitarian authoritative leader of men, when he's a ginge.

Just kidding. I love red hair. Only if it comes with green eyes, however.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Jun 04, 2010 2:57 am UTC

Felstaff wrote:Ralph. The level-headed one.

I spent the whole book wondering how Jack could be such a totalitarian authoritative leader of men, when he's a ginge.

Just kidding. I love red hair. Only if it comes with green eyes, however.

For some reason that made me laugh. Oddly enough, because I find redheads incredibly attractive. Well, the females anyways. So I guess it still works. Unless jack is female.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby EmptySet » Sat Jun 05, 2010 1:24 am UTC

Felstaff wrote:I spent the whole book wondering how Jack could be such a totalitarian authoritative leader of men, when he's a ginge.

Just kidding. I love red hair. Only if it comes with green eyes, however.


Oh, haha. Hilarious. I've certainly never heard comments like that before.

Just out curiosity, would you consider the following acceptable?

I spent all of Stargate-SG1 wondering how Sam Carter could be a brilliant scientist when she's a woman!

Just kidding! I love women. Only when they're hot, though.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Rakysh » Sat Jun 05, 2010 1:31 pm UTC

Holden from Catcher in the Rye. Absolute man-child. I really didn't like him.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Chuff » Sun Jun 06, 2010 6:09 am UTC

EmptySet wrote:
Felstaff wrote:I spent the whole book wondering how Jack could be such a totalitarian authoritative leader of men, when he's a ginge.

Just kidding. I love red hair. Only if it comes with green eyes, however.


Oh, haha. Hilarious. I've certainly never heard comments like that before.

Just out curiosity, would you consider the following acceptable?

I spent all of Stargate-SG1 wondering how Sam Carter could be a brilliant scientist when she's a woman!

Just kidding! I love women. Only when they're hot, though.

I don't know if they would, but I for one can tell how tongue-in-cheek it is, so it's just funny.

And I agree on the Holden bit. He pisses me off. Argh.
Mmm, Willy Loman of Death of a Salesman, mayhaps? That's kind of the point though.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby sje46 » Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:12 am UTC

Rakysh wrote:Holden from Catcher in the Rye. Absolute man-child. I really didn't like him.

Darn you. I was about to say "In b4 Holden Caulfield".
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Rakysh » Sun Jun 06, 2010 8:46 am UTC

Haha, sorry. But really, what kind of an immature, stupid, angsty teenager decides to go off to New York City to wander around asking random people if they want to go for cocktails. I get that he has issues, I do, but fucking hell he is annoying.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby sje46 » Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:32 pm UTC

Rakysh wrote:Haha, sorry. But really, what kind of an immature, stupid, angsty teenager decides to go off to New York City to wander around asking random people if they want to go for cocktails. I get that he has issues, I do, but fucking hell he is annoying.

It's been a while since I read the book (a year) and I only've read it once so far (don't worry, I read sparknotes to refresh my memory), but I think you simply don't get the point. There's this kid who thinks the world is phony, and wants companionship, but also uses his lonliness as a shield against the world, to protect his individuality. He is the only one who isn't phony. The irony is that he is phony too...he's a liar, and fails to self-introspect. When he says that crap about moving with that girl to Vermont, he only half-wants to. He knows it's ridiculous but he also knows that he can't deal with regular society. If he runs away with a girl to a remote location, he has asserted his individuality, his lack of phoniness (because how can you be a phony if you went through and successfully removed yourself from society?) and is no has companionship. He's no longer following the rules of society, living a certain way because it's expected...that's phony to him. That's why he does weird things like call up people he doesn't know for dates. He's not trying to annoy or bug people....he's just trying to cut the BS and cut to the chase. You could consider this an immature outlook on life...he hasn't realized that that isn't how life works, and that he, himself, is a phony. It's the only way to live. So fine, immature.

He's not stupid though, and is actually quite creative. He's angsty, fine...but since when was that a crime? He's going through psychological issues...that doesn't make him a "gonad". And mostly it seems like your main complaint is that he's walking around New York asking people to join him for cocktails. Umm...alright. He's doing that because he doesn't want to go home. This is a literary novel, man, not a thriller. Most people's lives are more boring than even this. That isn't a complaint about the character...that's a complaint about the storyline. It'd be like if I wrote a story about the actions, moods and thought processes over five days of someone being depressed because his wife died. It won't be riveting, but will show a lot about the character and the mourning process. Maybe it'll be a sucky book, but you shouldn't blame the character...blame the author's choice of theme. Personally, I don't think Holden does anything that annoying overtly (his thoughts may be annoying, but most everyone's thoughts are annoying), and I enjoy his creativity and values, even though I think a lot of his ideas about the world are immature.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Rakysh » Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:44 pm UTC

That's fair. I was being hyperbolic, sorry. I think my main issue is that... I suppose I just couldn't relate. Nothing he did made sense to me, but perhaps that's more my fault than his. I agree I probably didn't get it- I think perhaps I didn't read it properly, and thank you for taking the time to explain it some. My complaint about the asking people for cocktails isn't me being annoyed at the author, it's being annoyed at him because to me it sounded like a child trying to be an adult, tying into the immaturity. I suppose he is just a child trying to be an adult, in a way. I could kinda get it if he was twelve or thirteen, but by the age of seventeen I would have thought most people would... know how it works, more. But I imagine that's just me not getting it again.

Stupid was just wrong though, and I do take that back.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Dave_Wise » Sun Jun 06, 2010 11:35 pm UTC

Well, I disagree. First off, where's he going to get this army? Second, Hamlet has no actual way of knowing if the ghost is being honest with him. Third, he recognizes that seeking revenge will cause more than his and his Uncle's downfall. Now Othello and Desdomona, fucking tards.

Well, yeah, I suppose so. I mean, I was thinking England. As a nation, we've never been overly reluctant to foment and take part in foreign wars. But I see your point. And yes, othello is a clueless jizz-herder. You're within your rights to be upset if you think your wife is having an affair, but you don't get to commit murder over it, even in the 15th century. And Desdemona, I'm afraid, is a wet hen.

The thing with the tragically flawed hero is that, for me, it only works when the protagonist is a good, respectable man. Not a complete spanner.

Captain Corelli? He's generally pretty OK, but he isn't half a facetious little prick sometimes. And Sherlock Holmes is an overly didactive, supercilious fart-detective who thinks his drug habit is helping him.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby podbaydoor » Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:47 pm UTC

Re: Holden Caulfield. I read CITR at age 14 and again at 16 and bits and pieces since then. I have never, ever liked him, even when I was at my most hormonally immature and theoretically supposed to sympathize with him the most. Goddamn that boy can whine. Even as a self-entitled 14-year-old jagoff, I despised Holden for being a self-entitled jagoff.

OT: Pip from Great Expectations. I get that the whole point is he learns that life isn't about his great expectations. But man, does he act twattishly while he's at it. Estella, also completely unlikeable.

Scarlett O'Hara. Tough survivor woman, overcame incredible odds, clawed her way back up, great for her. She really was perfect for Rhett, they were both shameless users and manipulators. But the juxtaposition of her callousness with her fuck-off-no-really-shut-up pining after Ashley just got grating.

Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. Though he's a special case because the whole point of the character is he's a trickster and completely open about being a dick. As a more recently created trickster said, "Me? I'm dishonest. And a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest." :P

Speaking of tricksters, Loki. Though really, most of the Norse and Greek/Roman gods and heroes at one point or another managed to reach new heights in the definition of douchetruck.

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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Idhan » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:54 am UTC

A while ago, I saw Don Giovanni. Now, I don't know to what extent Lorenzo Da Ponte was hewing to the traditional legends of Don Juan, so maybe the portrayal in Don Giovanni is darker than usual, but anyway, wow.

When I hear "Don Juan," it generally seems to refer to a guy who's a suave ladies' man -- perhaps a bit careless with the feelings of his lovers, not always totally honest, but not that bad -- offensive to puritanical prudes, but not evil. The fact that he goes to hell is more an indictment of Christian anti-sexuality than an indictment of his libertine lifestyle.

In the opera, it seems to be almost inescapable that Don Giovanni is actually a serial rapist.

The opera starts with Don Giovanni sneaking into Donna Anna's room and trying to force himself on her. She cries out for help, but he persists in trying to rape her. Eventually her father, the commendatore, appears sword in hand to try to defend his daughter. Don Giovanni kills the Commendatore and flees the scene.

Later in the opera, Don Giovanni's servant Leporello gives an account of Don Giovanni's conquests: "640 in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey, and 1,003 in Spain." 2065 total.

Given that Leporello doesn't seem particularly shocked at Don Giovanni's behavior at the beginning of the play when he tries to rape Donna Anna, it seems hard to imagine that this was that unusual. Don Giovanni seems to mostly do consensual (if frequently dishonest and manipulative) seductions, but even if, say, just 5% of the time he forces it on someone unwilling, he's violently raped, like, a hundred women.

Definitely different from the Don Juan that our culture mostly seems to think of, like the Don Juan in Hell scene of George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman. Insofar as hell could justifiably exist at all, surely the protagonist of Don Giovanni is in the top 0.1% of people who belong there.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Sir Novelty Fashion » Sun Jul 11, 2010 4:33 pm UTC

Stephen Dedalus. I've been trying to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man... and it's the novel equivalent of watching someone else knock one out. It's the apex of self-indulgent twaddle. Well written, but not actually readable.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby sje46 » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:53 am UTC

Sir Novelty Fashion wrote:Stephen Dedalus. I've been trying to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man... and it's the novel equivalent of watching someone else knock one out. It's the apex of self-indulgent twaddle. Well written, but not actually readable.

Well, he's supposed to be an arrogant prick. And I thought the book was very readable...I enjoyed it, honestly.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Levi » Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:19 am UTC

Rakysh wrote:Haha, sorry. But really, what kind of an immature, stupid, angsty teenager decides to go off to New York City to wander around asking random people if they want to go for cocktails. I get that he has issues, I do, but fucking hell he is annoying.

Rakysh wrote:That's fair. I was being hyperbolic, sorry. I think my main issue is that... I suppose I just couldn't relate. Nothing he did made sense to me, but perhaps that's more my fault than his. I agree I probably didn't get it- I think perhaps I didn't read it properly, and thank you for taking the time to explain it some. My complaint about the asking people for cocktails isn't me being annoyed at the author, it's being annoyed at him because to me it sounded like a child trying to be an adult, tying into the immaturity. I suppose he is just a child trying to be an adult, in a way. I could kinda get it if he was twelve or thirteen, but by the age of seventeen I would have thought most people would... know how it works, more. But I imagine that's just me not getting it again.

Stupid was just wrong though, and I do take that back.


Wait, asking random people to go for cocktails is immature and angsty? It's the cocktail part that you have a problem with, right, not asking random people if they want to go do something?
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby The EGE » Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:31 am UTC

Nick Carroway of The Great Gatsby. The entire cast, really. There is not a single sympathetic character in the cast. Gatsby's no better, and the Buchanans are obviously total cuntshits. I realize this is the 20s and Fitzgerald is yelling about the moral corruption, but Nick and Gatsby are supposed to be at least minorly sympathetic. They don't come across that way.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby MiB24601 » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:15 pm UTC

The EGE wrote:Nick Carroway of The Great Gatsby. The entire cast, really. There is not a single sympathetic character in the cast. Gatsby's no better, and the Buchanans are obviously total cuntshits. I realize this is the 20s and Fitzgerald is yelling about the moral corruption, but Nick and Gatsby are supposed to be at least minorly sympathetic. They don't come across that way.


I didn't think Nick really had that much character. He mostly just goes along with the events of the book. Of course, he enables the other characters so I can see your point. Gatsby certainly isn't a good person but the audience is supposed to identify with his yearning to become the kind of person that Daisy could fall in love with and his complete failure to achieve that goal. (Daisy may have had an affair with him but she doesn't seem love him.)
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby dardarness » Thu Jul 15, 2010 5:07 am UTC

The EGE wrote:Nick Carroway of The Great Gatsby. The entire cast, really. There is not a single sympathetic character in the cast. Gatsby's no better, and the Buchanans are obviously total cuntshits. I realize this is the 20s and Fitzgerald is yelling about the moral corruption, but Nick and Gatsby are supposed to be at least minorly sympathetic. They don't come across that way.


Nick Carroway does not seem to have any spine. I quite liked Gatsby though, even if in a more pitiful way. And yeah, I agree. There was no single character in the book that was minorly sympathetic or likable but their apathy appeal to me.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby PatrickRsGhost » Sun Jul 18, 2010 4:18 am UTC

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn - both snotty little smart-asses who bitch and moan about being abused by their parent or guardian, and then turn around and get themselves into more trouble that gets them in trouble with the parent or guardian in the first place, and they don't understand why, not to mention getting into trouble with their friends or other people they encounter in the stories.

At least, that's what my memory's telling me.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Rakysh » Sun Jul 18, 2010 5:29 am UTC

Levi wrote:Wait, asking random people to go for cocktails is immature and angsty? It's the cocktail part that you have a problem with, right, not asking random people if they want to go do something?

Kind of both. Asking random people (and actually it's more because it's every single random person he exchanges more than two words with) makes me think he is very needy, which while irritating is not exactly his fault. The cocktails thing feels to me like someone has explained to him what adults do, and so he's trying to do that. He's trying to prove how mature and grown up he is, which makes him seem all the more childlike.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Idhan » Mon Jul 19, 2010 6:32 am UTC

Anyone here have a problem with Ender Wiggin? I personally didn't find him too bad (although I only read Ender's Game and not the rest of the OSC books, and my memory of Ender's Game is imperfect), but I know a lot of people hate him.

D'Artagnan, and the rest of the musketeers, were all sorta thugs, who spent most of The Three Musketeers too oblivious and wrapped up in their own heroic self-images to notice that they're engaged treason against the French crown. I suppose Dumas probably intended that, though. Other than the fact that they were unwittingly English double agents, though, they weren't too bad -- they really did seem to think they were fighting for truth, justice, and the French way.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby maricode » Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:08 am UTC

Irene America in Erdrich's latest, "Shadow Tag".
Huge disappointment, from one of the best authors of strong female characters.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby El Spark » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:27 pm UTC

Idhan wrote:Anyone here have a problem with Ender Wiggin? I personally didn't find him too bad (although I only read Ender's Game and not the rest of the OSC books, and my memory of Ender's Game is imperfect), but I know a lot of people hate him.


I mostly felt incredibly bad for Ender. The kid himself was halfway decent, though you didn't have many other children to measure him against besides ravening monsters, but he was in a terrible situation and he did the things that would get him through.

Peter, appropriately, is a total dick. Pretty much in every situation he's in, if there's an option that will either display or enhance his dickitude, he will take that option. Sheesh.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby podbaydoor » Fri Jul 23, 2010 3:17 pm UTC

Romeo & Juliet. Self-absorbed, impulsive, stupid teenagers who thought lust was love. More Romeo than Juliet. But if they'd grown up, they might have amounted to something. They didn't. And they screwed over Mercutio while they were at it. D:

Odysseus/Ulysses. He drank, killed, and fucked his way across the Mediterranean. Then killed a bunch of maidservants at the end.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Sat Jul 24, 2010 12:59 pm UTC

Ender is...well, he's a bit of a difficult case. He does some pretty dickish things, but from his point of view, they generally make sense.
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The Xenocide is obviously his "worst" act, but considering how thoroughly deceived he was, I don't think he can be held fully responsible. On the other hand, killing that bully at the beginning of the book was in no way necessary, "making it so they never hurt you again" or not. Six year olds do not need to be killed to be stopped. Again, however, he did this mostly on accident. Ender's problem is that he never really understood the consequences of his actions because they were never communicated to him.


podbaydoor wrote:Romeo & Juliet. Self-absorbed, impulsive, stupid teenagers who thought lust was love. More Romeo than Juliet. But if they'd grown up, they might have amounted to something. They didn't. And they screwed over Mercutio while they were at it. D:

True, but much like Hamlet, that's the point. It's a tragedy, the title characters have tragic flaws. Characters like Romeo, Macbeth, Brutus, Hamlet, etc, are tragic precisely because they might have amounted to something and don't.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Apteryx » Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:08 am UTC

This has got silly. Gotta laugh at Odysseus being judged as a dick by modern standards. In his own culture, he was both moral and justified, in fact a world renown hero but cultural relativism strikes again.


EVERYONE in history is a dick by the standards we have evolved, just as we will clearly be considered the most selfish, greedy, wasteful dicks by our great X 10 grandchildren while they struggle along in a world without resources. Except of course, OUR crimes, are crimes under our own moral sense, aren't they.

"Greatgrandma X 10 and her sisters spent 6.6 BILLION dollars a year on cosmetics, made in fantastically polluting factories , wrapped in 4 different kinds of non-recycled packaging, and ultimately thrown "away" in holes in the ground, where they continued to pollute for centuries".

" . . . HOW could they do that to us, didn't they KNOW what they were doing when they brought their lippies and stockings? WHY did they do it. And what did they mean by "away" anyway?".

"yep they knew perfectly well they were destroying nature, they did it so they could "look good", and "away" meant out of their sight".
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby podbaydoor » Mon Jul 26, 2010 4:58 am UTC

Nah. Sometimes a dick is a dick no matter what the cultural framework is. We should keep historical context in mind, sure, but it's not useful to refuse to acknowledge the mistakes and cruelty of past humans just because horrors are going on in our own time so "we can't judge" or some rot. Anyway, you don't think there are veritable legions of people within our own cultural framework already condemning ourselves as dicks? We're quite capable of judging ourselves, much less the past.

Take a recent historical example: Japanese internment camps were considered justified and patriotic at the time - at least by the non-Japanese. Somehow I doubt anyone's going around now saying "But we can't judge them for that - consider the cultural framework!!"

And just because Odysseus was considered heroic and justified within the patriarchal society designed to either put women on pedestals or treated them as possessions (or both), or vilified them if they didn't occupy those two positions, doesn't mean we are obligated to consider him heroic and justified. I actually rather like Odysseus - he's certainly a sight easier to stomach than Achilles or Agamemnon, and I can identify with his craftiness and emphasis on brains rather than brawn. But there's no getting around that he and all his heroic cadre were complete pigs at times.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Idhan » Mon Jul 26, 2010 5:36 am UTC

Hector seemed to be the most decent guy in the Trojan War. I guess nice guys finish last.

(I am not a classicist, but I wouldn't be surprised if Homer was making a point. The events of the Illiad supposedly took place in the Greek Dark Ages. Homer was writing from the perspective of the early classical age. Thersites and Hector are voices of common sense by our standards -- and possibly by the standards of many classical Greeks too -- and Homer shows Thersites as a loser whom everyone hates and Hector getting killed and gratuitously mutilated after his death. It sort tells the civilized classical Greeks "you may think you're better than these Dark Ages heroes, and maybe in a sense you are, but if you had been around back then, you'd have been a nobody, and probably been easily killed by the first heroic-age type you met.")
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Jumble » Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:30 am UTC

If we need to bring this conversation up to date, how about We Need to Talk About Kevin? I struggle with books were main characters are not sympathetically written, so I accept that I was going to have difficulty when the title character is a sociopath. However:
Spoiler:
Everyone who's not dead by the end of the book is so unlikeable that you wish they were. The dead characters aren't likeable as such, just so superficially drawn as to be a uniform beige colour.
I thought this might be a one-off due to the seriousness of the subject matter, so I tried reading Double Fault. No, once again a cast of self-obsessed ingrates so far up their own arses they have to clean their teeth from the inside. Sorry Shriver, I could start to worry about you.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Apteryx » Tue Jul 27, 2010 6:34 am UTC

Odysseus actually was a highly moral character in the Iliad, when the other Kings backed Agamemnon in his rush to war, "the many sided man", not wanting to go to war and leave his household, first tried to avoid his legal obligation to obey his oaths and treaties by pretending to be insane, then he tried to counsel peace, and sending of envoys. He takes pity on young soldiers who are disarmed, honours the gods and obeys the laws of the camp.

If we must judge him by our laws, a non-bigoted person wouldn't simply rest content with damning him for following the mores of his time in regards to women. He also probably broke the Geneva convention too. Certainly didn't obey modern Greece's passport and customs laws, let's damn him for that. He gave alcohol to minors, probably had sex with under age boys too. Probably imported cloven hooved animals without strict quarantine. I bet he smoked dope ! ! ! .

But nah, he is only a dick because he transgressed our MODERN laws about sexual equality, things that had not even been suggested for another 2000 odd years . . . tsk tsk.

The same mores that demanded that he murder the traitor housemaids demanded he give up his household and follow a High King to war in the first place. The mores of the time would have required him to go against odds to defend one of his housemaids ( if she were virtuous that is ) from an attacker too.

What you really mean pbd, is all of history must be judged by YOUR rules. Very convenient for you eh?.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Felstaff » Tue Jul 27, 2010 7:50 am UTC

Jumble wrote:If we need to bring this conversation up to date, how about We Need to Talk About Kevin?

You've unwittingly omitted the fact that the mother, who's describing the action through her series of letters, is a complete gonad. She, effectively, is the protagonist in the story, as it is through her eyes you see the events unfold. She is a weak character, unreliable and obviously suffering from post-natal depression. She is swift to dress up the faults of her husband, daughter and son in an apologetic form. To paraphrase: "I love my husband, he can be so blind to the obvious, but I forgive him for these character flaws". All right, you can take that at face value, but she repeats so often how oblivious her husband is, how meek and simple her daughter is, and how evil Kevin is so often; is it not troubling her genuine concerns go ignored? She spends the entire book discussing in meticulous detail every problem other people have, and never once introspectively looks at her own behaviours, her own weaknesses, her own flaws.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby sje46 » Tue Jul 27, 2010 8:12 am UTC

podbaydoor wrote:Take a recent historical example: Japanese internment camps were considered justified and patriotic at the time - at least by the non-Japanese. Somehow I doubt anyone's going around now saying "But we can't judge them for that - consider the cultural framework!!"


But can we judge Abraham Lincoln for saying the following?
“I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
Sure, racist by our standards, but he was further along than the zeitgeist, and he has done ore (I'm guessing) for black civil rights than anyone else in American history. Can we really judge him when in all probability that if we were born in the 1800s a great percentage (maybe most) of us would totally disagree with him in regards to the morality of slavery?

What I'm saying is that I wouldn't personally attack someone for not being as enlightened as we are, but I would blame the society instead. So I don't think it's fair to call Odysseus a pig for believing what he has been taught his entire life in an environment which (most likely...I'm not an ancient greek historian) probably no feminists existed, at all, and he might have been socially outcasted if he expressed any contrary views (well, he was a king, so I doubt that, but still). Not that I think his feelings would be hurt, not having existed and all.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Kewangji » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:12 pm UTC

Apteryx wrote:What you really mean pbd, is all of history must be judged by YOUR rules. Very convenient for you eh?.

Ugh, moral relativism. Like we can't judge Iran for allowing marital rape, like we can't judge the Catholic church for promoting AIDS over condoms. Those examples aren't different just because they're contemporary, they're just the same.

Also I agree with sje46.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Jul 27, 2010 8:32 pm UTC

What I'm saying is that I wouldn't personally attack someone for not being as enlightened as we are, but I would blame the society instead.

I suppose that's somewhat fair.

Apteryx, I suppose if Odysseus went and outright raped a woman, you'd call it justified by the mores of his day. Even if it was fine by the mores of his day, it does not negate the fact that he went and raped someone. You seem to think that it's only okay to judge someone by the standards of their time, which makes no sense. I am all for understanding historical standards, but I am in no way constrained to believe in those standards myself. Someday my descendants are going to do the same to me. That's inevitable. I'm not going to whine about it.

sje, re: Lincoln, we can simultaneously acknowledge that he was the Great Emancipator but also that he thought and said very racist things. Yes, I'm judging him by more modern standards. Understanding someone's motivations and the society he lived in does not automatically equal approval or respect. Given that as modern standards continue to evolve, we're getting to places where it's no longer okay to dehumanize, kill, enslave, rape someone for stupid reasons like race or gender, my conscience rests easy with calling a historical/fictional figure out for being a dick by our standards.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Jumble » Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:43 pm UTC

Felstaff wrote:
Jumble wrote:If we need to bring this conversation up to date, how about We Need to Talk About Kevin?

You've unwittingly omitted the fact that the mother, who's describing the action through her series of letters, is a complete gonad.

To be fair, I don't think I was omitting that vital point, with which I completely concur. Franky, by the end of the book I disliked her considerably more than her son (the only 2 characters of any relevance to survive to the final page). My underlying (but probably unfounded) concern as that Shriver thought she was writing a sympathetic character in the mother. That would be scary.

podbaydoor wrote: it's no longer okay to dehumanize, kill, enslave, rape someone for stupid reasons like race or gender, my conscience rests easy with calling a historical/fictional figure out for being a dick by our standards.


@PBD, I was about to leap to your defence until you ninja'd me. I agree that you have to judge by your moral standards - they are the only ones you have to live by and its you that has to sleep at night. I agree with you. However, two points bother me (and I don't have an answer to either of them):
1) I try to live by my moral standards (and often fail), but I get edgy about the 'judging' bit because I may be wrong. I can only do my best as I see it but I'm reluctant to impose my world-view on others.
2) In 200 years I'm sure that you, I and everyone on this forum will be considered amoral prats for some behaviour or other that is perfectly normal today. I guess I'm saying that I believe that we advance, slowly, painfully, and that we still have a long way to go.
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Re: Famous literary protagonists that are actually total gon

Postby Apteryx » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:27 am UTC

If he had raped a daughter of one of his peers, that was in fact rape, and his society would have punished him. His society DID NOT consider forced sex to be raping captives, it wasn't a crime, it was what they were for. He wasn't a rapist for doing so until our more understanding mores came about. Yes of course, he would be more than a dick in your and my eyes if he were wandering about today, he would be the worst kind of statist serial killer imaginable, with a garnish of brutal rape and arson. So of course would half the guys in the bible, not to mention God himself. Or in fact Penthesilea and Hyppolita for that matter.

Actually it is sort of funny you picking on his cultures treatment of women for your complaint. The rapes were merely the aftermath of far more "Dickish" behaviour, i.e. "burning the lofty towers of Illium". As a King he had lead many raids, sacked towns, killed the young and old.

And yes, pbd, I do in fact think it is only fine to judge someone by the mores and laws of their time, which, sorry mate, makes perfect sense.

Unless you know, you would like to present yourself to our local town square, where I will charge you with witchcraft ( You talk to spirits in a glass box, and wear trousers ! Guilty your honour :) ) and burn you at the stake. Or maybe I will accuse you of being a sexist , present the statements you made here which will condemn you out of hand ( under their mores of course, CLEARLY you are perfectly free of the taint in our time :rolleyes: ) which in the year 3020 will carry a sentence of re-personality, and you get to choose a new name and hair colour.
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