Jack's picture
Jack from England is reading texts of rejection from pretty ladies October 17, 2011 - 4:49am

This is my question: What's the most horrific thing you've seen a character do that you've managed to see past and still empathise with them, even if not at the same level? I don't mean villains that are still charming and alluring, but the "hero" of a plot.

I mean, we'd all (probably) not be okay if Harry Potter or Frodo started raping the corpses of everything they found. Even though that'd be hilarious. 

Examples I can think of are:

  • Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. Sympathetic and vivid despite his murders and ensuing arrogance and unrepetenance.
  • Walter White in Breaking Bad (TV show). Several times I've been abhorred by something he's done but still tune in and root for him.

And while I love Lolita and The Ginger Man, and enjoy the protagonists's company, I'm never actually on their side.

This is what I'm getting at: What's the most terrible thing you've forgiven a protagonist for?

.'s picture
. October 17, 2011 - 4:55am

Patrick Bateman is an obvious one. Too obvious really. 

I'll go with Donald Draper from Mad Men, despite his womanizing, heavy drinking and identity fraud, who can deny his charm and talent for the advertising industry. Hmm doesn't sound much different from Pat Bateman (minus the raping and killing prostitutes.)

Ben's picture
Ben from Australia is reading My Booky Wook by Russell Brand October 17, 2011 - 5:05am

Agreed on Draper.

I'd like to add Al Swearengen from HBO's Deadwood to the list.  I despised him at first, but now he's my favourite character on the show (although, to be fair, I'm not finished the show yet - I'm one episode into the third and final season).  I can see past all of his murders and cruelty - and that's as much detail as I'll go into, because you really have to watch the show to understand completely.

Dr. Gonzo's picture
Dr. Gonzo from Manchester, UK is reading Blood Meridian October 17, 2011 - 5:06am

If the raping and killing of prostitutes actually happened.  At least he's left kids alone, unlike Clay.  Fisting the little girl in Palm Springs...?  Shoving his hand in her mouth, getting the little boy hooker to fuck her, chase her, fuck her some more.  Wonder what he did before it was edited?  Anyway.  Clay is much worse that Pat Bateman, to me at least.

But I still like him.  And I like Draper, too.  Good one, Jack. 

.'s picture
. October 17, 2011 - 5:07am

Yes, Deadwood is freaking epic. 

Oh and I guess Dexter Morgan too.

Jay.SJ's picture
Jay.SJ from London is reading Warmed and Bound October 17, 2011 - 7:07am

I think the main problem is not having an unforgivable character but having an unforgivable character that the reader does not hate, and thus would not care enough to read on.

An example is to give them a universal humane trait. For example, in Breaking Bad, Walter does everything he does to provide for his family. He is a genius at what he does, and only really turns evil for the protection of others.

In American Psycho perhaps it was the satire or the fact that Bateman hated his own lifestyle and other people as much as the reader did. He was never redeemed per ce but emphasied with by modern readers who also felt trapped or could relate.

Palahniuk used the fish in Survivor as a way of showing a humane trate, by having it die it showed how much the character felt an attachment to it.

Instag8r's picture
Instag8r from Residing in Parker, CO but originally from WV is reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy October 17, 2011 - 7:40am

As far as Draper is concerned, I started liking him a lot more when we began to see the "real" Betty. That vindictive mood-swinging bitch might push any man into another woman's bed. In the spirit of full disclosure ... I do think the change in her character is brilliant.

wickedvoodoo's picture
wickedvoodoo from Mansfield, England is reading stuff. October 17, 2011 - 8:24am

Mansfield from We Are Oblivion by Michael Sonbert is a good one for this debate. He does some pretty awful things on his journey but still kept me on his team. Good book that.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 17, 2011 - 8:36am

Everyone in Man Bites Dog, you just have to remind yourself it's a satire every once in a while.