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A Recent Musing On Protagonists

posted Sep 11, 2015, 9:58 AM by Ben Kreucher
Recently, I've been bouncing an idea around.  What if the protagonist of a story made all the wrong decisions?  Would he still be a hero?  Would the story be able to be anything other than a comedy?

I don't really have any answers.  So, it's pretty much things as usual around here.  

I just don't know if one person making bad choices could drive an entire story by himself/herself.  Though, I freely admit is is possible and I haven't read nearly enough to know how many times it's been done before.

It may be that the protagonist actually becomes an anti-hero or, even, the villain.  Plenty of stories have been told from the point-of-view of the villain, so that's not a wildly outlandish concept.

But what would be a wrong decision?  Harry Potter befriending Draco Malfoy?  Choosing to enter Slytherin House?  Not saving Hermione from the troll?

All of those would drastically change the story and Harry's character.  If he hung out with Malfoy and Slytherins, one might argue he was on the course to join the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord's army.  If he didn't rescue Hermione, I'm sure someone might have...or Ron and Hermione would get flattened and then who'll help Harry find the horcruxes?

Of course, it could be argued that in the series, Malfoy is that character.  A case could even be made extending that privilege to the whole Malfoy family.  They may not become true heroes, but at the end of the story, they turn aside from Voldemort and help Harry...well, one at least.  And while Harry and Draco might never be friends, they at least aren't enemies any longer.

So, I'd say it could be done.  A protagonist who makes all the wrong choices could work and could carry the weight of the plot. However, one would have to write carefully to avoid heavy-handedness; after all, don't we often make poor decisions in our real lives?
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