Hero or Villain

“Every villain is a hero of his or her own story” Christopher Vogler, The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition

Throughout Jemisin’s work readers are often left in the dark of the finer details of things.  There is no clear good side or bad side. You don’t really know people’s intention. In the first novel, we assume that Essun is good and the Fulcrum/the guardians are bad.  By the second novel the Fulcrum doesn’t exist anymore so who can you shift the role of the bad guy too, because we all instinctively label people as good or bad. By the third, I’m questioning who really is the “good” guy.  It’s really hard to tell which side is which.

I think that everyone wants Hoa to be a “good guy” however, there have been multiple instances where he refers to his betrayal, like in The Obelisk Gate when he says, ”So this is a confession, my Essun.  I’ve betrayed you already and I will do it again… Already I plot your death.” which lead us to question is he really a good guy.  A character that comes up that has potential to fall in either the category of hero or villain is Gray Man/ Steel. At first, he seems really creepy and he may be the bad guy but I began to question that the further we get into the book.  At the moment neither Hoa or Steel fit the role of the villain. This is because Jemisin writes them each to be the hero of their own stories, following what they believe to be the right thing to do.

We are so used to labeling sides and characterizing people as either the villain or the hero that we forget that things are much more complicated than what is on the surface.  When we read Jemisin’s books we want to identify who is good or bad, but that’s not what Jemisin wants us to see. She wants us to understand the not everyone believes the same thing and there will always be an opposing side, Jemisin demonstrates this idea in The Obelisk Gate, when Antimony says, “There are always options…And not all of my kind want to the same thing.”  Jemisin did a great job at reflecting this reality. That there are no clear good guys and bad guys there are people who have opposing views and each side sees the other as the bad guy.  In real life things aren’t white or black, things aren’t clear-cut. We don’t live in superhero movies or Bond films, there is a lot more moral gray area that makes it difficult to definitely say that someone is a hero.  There are always details that we don’t know and there are always hidden agendas that will never be made known. Jemisin really embodies this in the novels there isn’t really a hero that is trying to defeat a villain. Her novels are based around people trying their best to survive in an unforgiving world, following what they believe to be the right path.  Lines are blurry and in the grand scheme of things you don’t always know if you are on the “good” or “bad” side. You can only go with what you think is right and in your own perspective that makes you the hero.

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