“Only villains are evil — antiheros are deluded, damaged individuals.” –David Weisberg
I read this quote today in a Writer’s Digest article and it definitely made me think. I can’t say that I necessarily agree at least with the part about villains, but that’s largely because we don’t see many true villains any more (Voldemort being an exception).
What is it that makes an anti-hero? Anti-heroes are flawed protagonists.
I know, I know. In children’s literature, we put a great deal of emphasis on flawed protagonists. After all, real people are flawed and we want to create characters that real kids can identify with. As a result, we have to make sure our main characters are flawed and it is definitely true of some of my favorite protagonists.
Amani in Rebel of the Sands is self-deluded to the point that she misses a very important fact about herself. I’m not going to even hint at what it is because it is that important to the next book.
Colin in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherine’s is spectacularly socially inept.
Elisa in Girl of Fire and Thorns waffles with a capital W. In fact, she’s not good at anything but eating even if she is a princess. This all changes in a rather spectacular fashion but she is definitely flawed as are all three of these characters. And, annoying though they may sometimes be, the are also obviously good.
In my mind at least that makes them flawed but still fairly standard protagonists. Anti-heros are something more. They may not be evil but they also aren’t obviously good people.
Ronan in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle’s Trilogy isn’t the main character but wow. He is definitely an anti=hero. There is no rule this boy has not broken. He’s loud, he’s abrasive and to see him in most situations you have no proof that he’s anything but rotten. At least at first. Get into the books and you’ll start picking up on a few things but he is definitely anti-hero material. He is flawed and it is for these flaws that we love him. Still, you will sometimes hesitate to call him good. It just seems too extreme somehow. All of that said, he is one of my all time favorite characters.
Another anti-hero, this one funny, is Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl. He is a boy genius who is also bound and determined to be an evil genius. These books are more funny than scary because it is solidly middle grade but he is so obviously bad. Funny, but bad.
I’d have to say that Nick in The Demon’s Lexicon is also an anti-hero. He’s cold and calculating and scares the holy you-know-what out of his mum. But he’s devoted to his brother and a man of his word. Still, as things unfold you are increasingly certain that he is not good. He’s not even capable.
In children’s and young adult’s books, I think there is a very fine line between a flawed protagonist and a flawed anti-hero that it can be a rather ragged boundary running between.