I just reread the last couple of scenes of Tortured. I’m feeling really stuck on Between the Heaves of Storm, because I’m trying to figure out some way to redeem Jason.
I really didn’t think this whole thing through when I was writing it. Jason got creepier in Trembling. It just happened. And then I was like, “Well, Azazel can’t be with some creepy guy, can she?” So instead of attempting to redeem him right then and there, I just made her get creepy too. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Rereading that last scene, the description of the guy on the fourth floor whose jaw is dislodged, the sound of throaty, male screams, and finally the image of Jason leering while he shoots off the fingers of a man, made me feel supremely icked out.
And Azazel forgives him.
And I did too. And so did you, apparently, if the comments on Stillness are any indication. What have I done here? I made a guy a romantic lead, or at least I cast him in that traditional role, and then I revealed that he was actually Ted Bundy. And we are still in love with him anyway. Except Azazel. Azazel is the only one of us who has any sense. And what have I done to her in Between? I’ve thrown her back into the belly of the beast. Well, I guess I should shut up about that, being spoilery and all about a book that’s only 27,000 words and 87 pages long currently.
But reading that scene made me feel convicted. Like I have a responsibility to teenage girls, and that I might be sending the message that when boys are assholes, it’s totally okay. When Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights, she pulled a similar trick on us. But she made sure that Catherine knew what it was she loved. Catherine said this about Heathcliff: “Pray, don’t imagine that he conceals depths of benevolence and affection beneath a stern exterior! He’s not a rough diamond – a pearl-containing oyster of a rustic: he’s a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man.”
Is my Jason a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man too?
No. I don’t think so. I think underneath, somewhere, there’s pain and remorse. The problem is, of course, that lots of psychopaths act like they feel sorry about what they do. And they’re completely capable of feeling sorry for themselves.
Heathcliff doesn’t get redeemed at the end of Wuthering Heights. Instead, he just kind of gives up. After Catherine dies, all that sustains him is his revenge. And some point, he just gets tired of it, and so he dies. (Bronte was really fond of people being able to will themselves into physical ailments.)
How does Darth Vader get redeemed? He kills the Emperor. And then he dies.
There’s a character in Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark trilogy named Theo. Theo goes nuts in the war and becomes a bloodthirsty general called Kestrel. Eventually, though, he just sort of stops. The war ends, I guess. He spends the last book being haunted by what he’s done.
How do you do it? How do you redeem a character who’s done such awful things?
And perhaps the more disturbing question is this: Why do we want him redeemed? Is it because we want our love for him to be justified? We love him, dark as he is, so therefore, we want to believe he’s a good person?
I just know that I can’t in good conscience give him back to Azazel in the condition he’s in. Hell, I feel kind of guilty for letting Tortured end the way it did, with my two-sentence mention of Jason being in therapy as if that was going to solve everything. I either have to find some way for him to change, and it for it to ring true to me, or… I don’t know… he has to die??? I should probably stop talking about this now, too. I think it’s getting potentially spoilery. Of course, considering Jason already did die that one time, I’m not sure anyone would really take me seriously. 🙂
If you respond in the comments, don’t tell me how Jason could make himself better. I think Jason has to tell me that himself. But if you know of any stories that feature an evil character who gets redeemed, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks for listening to my ramblings. And sorry for making a situation in a book sound so dire.
(Really, kids, writing is fun!)