Tag Archives: Ambiguous Villains

Every Story Needs a Villain, Part Two

Last time, some of you may remember, we were discussing the lack of villains in the films of Hayao Miyazaki. Hopefully by now you even may have seen some of these films for yourself.

But as a refresher let us review the stock Miyazaki storyline: A bratty young woman on the cusp of adolescence is cut off from her parents or her family situation and must find her way back home. Along the way she will come into contact with a boy about her own age, an ambitious dreamer, usually an orphan, who will help our heroine find her way back. And while our young heroine will appear unchanged on the outside to both family and friends, on the inside she will have grown as a person and become stronger and more able to handle whatever life has to throw at her; though by story’s end she will also be saddened, even a little disillusioned, by the outsize effort that has been required of her.

Now I would like to discuss the most recent novel by Richard Ford, Canada, and the ways in which one artist’s approach to ‘bad guys’ in his story can be so very different from another’s.

Canadian flag

In the story that it tells, Canada is remarkably similar to many of the films of Hayao Miyazaki: a teenaged boy is cut off from his family situation and tries to find his way home—only in his case there is no home to return to. However, and in contrast to Miyazaki’s work, there is a very clear bad guy who drives the second half of the narrative, and who brings about the requisite change in our hero that allows him to complete the journey that is the plot of the novel, as well as his life.

Like any good story, the stakes for the protagonist have to be high, as well as clearly stated, and Ford achieves all this in his opening paragraph:

First, I’ll tell you about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later. The robbery is the more important part, since it served to set my and my sister’s lives on the courses they eventually followed. Nothing would make complete sense without that being told first…. Continue reading

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