Rooting for the So-Called Villain

12 August 2011

I've spent a great deal of time these past weeks reading historical fiction. Currently I find myself reading a series about the Borgias, narrated from the POV of a (fictional) poisoner. Long before the television series about the original crime family, and long before I'd come across any of the books about them, I knew of the treacherous reputation of the Borgias. Corruption, bribery, and the like ~ none of these befitting for the occupant of St. Peter's Throne. History paints these Borgias as villains, at best. Yet, in reading these fictionalized accounts of them, I cannot help but empathize with Borgia and his family.

I recently read Dracula: The Un-dead, a sequel to the original Bram Stoker novel. Once again, we see a monster portrayed as worthy of our empathy. This book depicts a monster capable of feeling, giving and receiving love. How can this be? Does it seem naive, then, to view the world as a series of contrasts of black and white? When does a being become it's heinous actions? Do we ever need to consider the context? Perhaps, instead of good and evil, we have shades of each. This complicates things, our understanding of things.

I find it interesting when authors paint their stories such that the bad guy seems worthy of readers' sympathies.



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