Conventionally characters in fantasy fiction develop very little, with almost none of the personal evolution one expects in literature. They tend to be stereotypical “goodies” and “baddies,” the handsome, courageous heroes and the cruel, ugly forces of evil. They are the epitome of the force for which they fight. Over the past few decades very few fantasy fiction writers have escaped from this rut.
The Lord of the Rings and the Wheel of Time are linked by the fact that none of their major characters remain static. There are also very few stereotypical characters present in each text. The ways in which character development is achieved and what causes it, will be explored in this essay.
The characters that show the most development in the Lord of the Rings are undoubtedly the hobbits. From being “absurd, helpless hobbits” at the start those in the company are “Fearless hobbits with bright swords and grim faces” when they return to the Shire. While “there was a note in the voices of these [hobbits] that they [the bandits in the Shire] had not heard before. It chilled them with fear.” Even Mr Butterbur, who sees them only twice, says “You have come back changed from your travels, and you look now like folk as can deal with troubles out of hand.”
Frodo’s development begins when he is told the history of the ring by Gandalf. He had never before suspected that such evil could exist. How could he? In the Shire there is no real evil because of the Ranger’s unceasing vigilance. Furthermore Bilbo’s tales1 would have skimmed over bad times and concentrated on what the hobbits wanted to hear about, Big People, dragons and mountains of treasure. The stench of the dead and the terror that Smaug the dragon caused would not have been mentioned.
In the Wheel of Time it is the three ta’veren that show the most change. They start out as simple village boys knowing almost nothing of the world beyond the two rivers. Perrin becomes a wolfriend, Mat commands the Band of the Red Hand (six-thousand men) and Rand is the Dragon Reborn, destined to fight the Last Battle against the Shadow.
Rand’s ability to channel is what changes him most. He “had been brought up to fear any man that could channel, fated to go mad and, before the Shadow-tainted male half of the Source killed him horribly, bring terror to everyone around him.
Reflection in Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net
Reflection in Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net
In her novel Under the Net, Iris Murdoch examines the nature of reality through the thoughts and relationships of the novel’s main character, Jake Donaghue. A recurring theme in the novel is the idea of reflection, in both senses of the word: Jake is continually thinking about ideas, and he is also forever trying to see himself as he really is. Many of the instances of reflection in the novel occur near rivers or are connected in some way to currents. As we shall see, Iris Murdoch uses reflections in Under the Net to represent the mirror opposites of reality and appearance. The Novel As Reflection
In examining Murdoch’s use of reflections in Under the Net, it is perhaps useful to briefly discuss the novel as a reflection itself. Jake is ostensibly the author of the novel, and it is presented as a sort of documentation of selected episodes in his life. The novel is at least in part based on real people (Hugo Bellfounder, for example, is based on the German linguistic analyst Ludwig Wittgenstein), but it is of course a work of fiction; as such, it merely reflects reality. Jake is similarly only a reflection of the novel’s true writer, Iris Murdoch. Murdoch’s protagonist is male and we see the characters and events in the novel from a man’s point of view, but in reality this point of view is actually a woman’s. Murdoch presents the story in this way to emphasis the connection between truth and fiction: fiction is a reflection of reality, but neither can be defined without the other. Contingency and Non-Contingency
When he first introduces himself to the reader, Jake informs us that he is “talented, but lazy”. We soon learn that he is not simply being overly self-critical; …
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…e made up of moments which pass and become nothing. Yet through this shaft of nothings we drive onward with that miraculous vitality that creates our precarious habitations in the past and the future. So we live; a spirit broods and hovers over the continual death of time, the lost meaning, the unrecaptured moment, the unremembered face, until the final chop that ends all our moments and plunges that spirit back into the void from which it came. (p244)
Contingency and non-contingency, like reality and appearance, are mirror images of each other that are interconnected; one cannot exist without the other. Despite the contingency and uncertainty surrounding our everyday reality, we press on as part of the dialogue of life, and Under the Net stands as a fascinating exploration of this uniting of concepts. References Used Murdoch, Iris (19 ). Under the Net.