9/25/13

Death of a Character

Two huge story-telling legends teamed up to premiere "Agents of SHIELD" last night, Marvel and my long-time hero Joss Whedon.  (At our house, the feeling of heartache caused by watching characters die before getting to enjoy a new love is called "getting Whedoned.")

The return of my favorite fallen character, the coy, comical, and confident Agent Phil Coulson, got me thinking about character deaths.  Not to mention the last two episodes of "Breaking Bad."  (Vince Gilligan and his writers are not afraid to create "Oh *&^%!" moments in their scripts!)

Spoiler alert for the rest of this post.

The book character death that affected me the most is still Prabaker from Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.  Prabaker, more affectionately known as Prabhu, provides nothing but warm-hearted, well-meaning comic relief through much of the book.  Until his untimely death off-page.  I learned of it the same way the main character did, through dialog, and for a day or two, I felt like I had lost a friend, too.  A close second was the murder and suicide at the end of Katherine Dunn's Geek Love.  If you ever want to feel pure sadness in the face of self-sacrifice and self-destruction, here it is.  When main character Oly ends her life while taking down the woman who might "normalize" her beautiful but freakish daughter, the floodgates just open.  Third place:  the death of Gogol Ganguli's father in The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.  The main character becomes fatherless, his mother widowed and alone.  It's very real, and for that reason, gripping.

One of the most shocking deaths in terms of emotion and criminality was the main character's discovery of his close friend Sophie and her husband in Marcus Sakey's The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes.  For a protagonist with amnesia, Daniel needs all the friends he's got that he can remember.  Losing a close friend/literary agent and finding her lifeless, tortured body staged for his discovery?  That's a rough day.  And one more thing that makes their murderer Bennett such a widely-discussed villain - slimy, shameless, brutal, and unpredictable.

Most heart-wrenching graphic novel death?  Morpheus, King of Dreams, the title character of Neil Gaiman's series The Sandman.  He doesn't even die right at the end, leaving me to grieve and contemplate and start the series over with Morpheus rising to fresh triumph.  I have to continue the story, watching his son Daniel claim his title and step into his role.  It creates a beautiful but sad cycle like the way winter fits into the cycle of seasons.  It's necessary, but parts of it hurt.

What are your favorite character deaths?  What makes them so memorable?

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