At Bruce Waynes’s funeral Commissioner Jim Gordon reads, “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. 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.” For those of you not entertained by classical literature (I’m not),or possess the skills to Google something, that piece is from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. And outside of that reference, the only other quote I know from the book is, of course, “It was the best of times, it was the worse of times.” No bother, I guess that the central hero of the tale is doing something heroic by the end. Most characters tend to become the hero, even though they weren’t heroic from the get go. Hear that, Mr. George Lucas? Han Solo isn’t a monster because he shot first. He was an anti-hero who risked his life later on for the greater good. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it. (Hopefully, Disney corrects the mistaken correction later on.)
But not all protagonists are “heroes.” Take the books by Hubert Selby, Jr. We’re not exactly rooting for anyone at the end, just continually watching in this morbid fascination as their whole world falls from underneath their feet. So what’s the point? What am I getting at here? Nothing, really. Just musing myself.
When I first introduced my Narrator Unknown to my creative writing class a few years ago, the reaction was unanimous. This character is someone you hate. I don’t think anyone in my class liked him. They wanted to know more about Samantha, a mentioned-only character whom I had a hard time dealing with when writing her scenes. So I removed the idea that making an unlikeable character was a good idea. But I didn’t want to make him the hero of his own stories. When we look at our daily lives, how many of us are heroic? Every day. In the sense that we’d actually want to read about ourselves? Not just to our loved ones. Our children. Our pets. The answer is usually an overwhelming none. NU was never meant to be a hero, he was meant as a person who just tries to hold on to everything he knows while not accepting change is inevitable.
You may want to end your life by doing something that is far, far better than anything you’ve done before. NU just wants to live.