Evil characters might be more than just a symbol of fright. They have a heart of soul of their own, signifying something deeper more often than not.
“All humans are inherently good” we have all heard that, right? Whether that’s true or not doesn’t concern us. But we know for sure that where it is good, there’s always some bad and vice versa.
Medusa: Greek Monster or Greek Goddess?
Building upon this, let’s look at the example of the Greek “goddess” Medusa. A mythical being, she is significantly well known outside of literature.
Frightening, hideous, wicked, scary, ugly, evil, a monster. I am sure you would have said at least one of these words if I asked you to describe Medusa.
Did you know she wasn’t always like this? Medusa was a beautiful innocent girl who was sexually abused by Poseidon.
Different theories contribute different reasons as to why Medusa developed an angry personality. One theory suggests that this is a manifestation of her trauma from the abuse. It is a form of revenge, but she wants to let go of the kind.
Maybe then, Medusa isn’t so evil, so horrifying, after all.
Until enlightenment, all monsters were considered evil.
Are All Evil Characters Bad?
A biblical epic, Lord of the Rings, is our next discussion point. I’m sure quite a few of you reading this would have watched the series or read the books (or both, who’s judging?). But, even if you haven’t, don’t worry, you’ll get what I am trying to say.
Based in the Middle Ages, the plot of Lord of the Rings blurs the lines between good and evil. Orcs, Trolls, and Sauron were all monsters with no good qualities. Instead, they were “embodiments of pure malic and corruption.”
The point was to stigmatize all mythical monsters as evil characters. This brings us back to the point of being inherently good.
Grendel, an evil villain from the classic poem Beowulf, appears to be a brute. A descendant of Cain and envisaged as a giant; he is bound to be evil, right?
Grendel and the poem’s hero have many good characteristics to share. The story depicts how “good” and “evil” can be mixed, but they are ultimately on the same level.
Frankenstein: An Evil Character of the Society?
Frankenstein is a creation made by Victor Frankenstein, who is notorious but not entirely a “monster .”The story takes place post-Enlightenment. We must note that Frankenstein is, in fact, a part of Victor. The central conflict is between the family and the society – it is a story of social deviance, an evil in itself.
On her deathbed, Frankenstein’s mother instructs him that his fiancé, Elizebeth, will take her place. This confuses him about their role in his life. He refuses to marry Elizebeth and have a child against societal pressures and informal rules.
His social choices are considered genuinely monstrous. The story ends with the creator deciding that Frankenstein must die due to his socially evil choices.
Victor Frankenstein learns not to “play God” or mess with the secrets of life and death. And we, as readers, understand through the evil character’s behaviors how strongly society governs our behaviors.
The idea that we must choose a path to follow, good or evil, is a notion given in the Old Testament. Either you obey the commandments of God, or you do not. Heaven and hell are the reward and punishment for each of the decisions, respectively.
Knowing this, it is safe to say that we are ingrained to believe that evil characters are evil through and through. This belief was set in stone until after enlightenment when new views surfaced.
Today, our contemporary “evil characters” such as Slender Man and the Invisible Man do not match the same level of monstrosity as the older ones.
Albeit, there is still some fright attached to them. That said, such characters will likely lose the remaining negative connotations attached to them, just as your opinion of Medusa and Frankenstein would have changed by the time you reach the end of this.
Maybe then it is safe to say that evil characters are not entirely intrinsically evil. They do have an element of good in them, teaching us a few morals or two. Some may even be completely remarkable to begin with.
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