Reply To: Lesson 3 The Role of External Challenges, Escalation

Home Forums MASTERING CHARACTER ARCS Lesson 3 The Role of External Challenges, Escalation Reply To: Lesson 3 The Role of External Challenges, Escalation


Hi, Ruchama

I’m glad if these discussions are helpful. One more step here:

It’s true that excess in what might be a virtue can become a horrible vice. A loyal mobster doesn’t snitch on his fellows, even if people get killed. A loyal soldier may participate in a massacre when ordered. Southerners loyal to their states in the Civil War fought to maintain the enslavement of others.

Recognizing this condition is good. And it can help to create common ground that humanizes flawed people and guides them toward a larger view. A mobster might be put onto the path of redemption by seeing his gang’s victims as deserving of life and justice. (That would not absolve him of guilt as an accomplice to murder.) A soldier would see that the military code (at least for the U.S.) allows the questioning of an illegal order and lead to regret. (But he would still be complicit legally and morally in a bloodbath.) The Civil War Southerner might come to see that when he stretches his loyalty to his white community to the point where he helps subjugate his black neighbors, he destroys his deeper moral code.  (But he is still guilty of holding innocent people in bondage.)

In each of these cases, the person’s virtues are more dangerous than what are considered flaws

It is much easier to name a serious flaw as a virtue exaggerated than to name what it is directly. When this is done with others, it might create common ground. When it is done by a writer, the power of the story and the character arc is likely to suffer.

So here’s the question. If Rebecca’s virtue of loyalty is more dangerous that flaws, how is that shown in the story? Did anything she did endanger Daniel or his father? I guess they would have been embarrassed socially and hurt emotionally if she had betrayed them and escaped, but I’m not sure Dr. Coffin would categorize that as especially dangerous to anyone.

Is there any parallel in the story to the loyalties of the mobster, soldier, or Southerner?


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