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Is it ok for a heroic protagonist to kill himself at the end?

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  #31  
Old 04-28-2010, 01:17 PM
Lin
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I don't expect politeness much.
I do expect people not to be stupid and ignorant...then pretend it was me who said it.

You can be a moron on your own time if you really feel the need. But don't attribute it to me.

Go be heroic

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  #32  
Old 04-28-2010, 01:23 PM
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No need for flames and language, keep it civil.

As for the topic, I would say that it is up to you. Whatever you think works best, though without having read the story I can not say if it is the right, let alone the heroic thing to do.
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  #33  
Old 05-02-2010, 11:09 AM
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So, this is sorta like Brokeback Mountain, only on the high seas?

While I personally think suicide is cowardly, I know that some people resort to it. Usually weak, dramatic people, but hey,.... to each their own. I mean, if life is a rollar coaster, who the heck wants to jump off at the low point and miss all the highs? If that's the lasting impression that you want the character to leave, then go for it. You're the writer, Ashton.
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  #34  
Old 05-03-2010, 12:19 PM
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But that's the point isn't it: when you try to kill yourself it's because you no longer beleive that any highs await you. Of course you are almost certainly wrong but you won't find that out unless you screw up your suicide. So I think it should be okay so long as Ashton can convince the reader that this character really does beleive he has nothing and nowhere left.
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  #35  
Old 05-03-2010, 12:50 PM
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Then he wouldn't be a hero, though, would he? He'd be a coward.
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  #36  
Old 05-03-2010, 11:00 PM
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Personally I agree, but I think enough people would disagree to make the book a sellable prospect. And I'm not just talking about emo teens either, remember it is legal in several European countries to help somebody off themselves, and in countries where it isn't it is either legal to help someone go to those countries or the law just turns a blind eye and lets it go on anyway.

The idea of the right to 'death with dignity' is gathering pace again, in Europe at least.
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  #37  
Old 05-04-2010, 05:53 AM
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I don't think legality matters one way or the other. And he's not talking about a guy who's dying anyway, just some guy bummed out about his butt boy kicking off.

Big difference.
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  #38  
Old 05-04-2010, 04:59 PM
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Huge difference.

It says loads about the character's mettle. Euthanasia is considered for terminally ill patients who are suffering from pain and want to be able to chose the time of death for a multitude of reasons. Often, they want to have their affairs taken care of, and/or they want to be able to say good bye to their loved ones and/or they want to die with some dignity. This isn’t the same thing... this is someone who has decided that they can no longer emotionally “take it”. It is cowardly. The question here isn’t whether or not it’s okay for a character or a person to kill themselves. The question is whether or not it’s okay for a heroic protagonist to kill themselves. I don’t think it is ok. There’s nothing heroic about it at all.
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  #39  
Old 05-05-2010, 12:38 AM
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I know I didn't start this thread, but I must say I'm gladdened by some of these responses. My WIP contains a protagonist who dies (doesn't exactly kill himself but allows himself to be killed, so sort of same thing) and is immediately verbally b****slapped by a goddess for his hypocrisy, insensitivity, selfishness and general emo self absorption before being sent back to life to do it again and this time show some consideration for others. I'm glad to see so many people in sympathy with this attitude.
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  #40  
Old 05-05-2010, 05:14 AM
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If nothing else, it sucks to leave it to somebody else to have to deal with your body.
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  #41  
Old 05-19-2010, 08:19 PM
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Ritual suicide as a gesture to maintain one's honor isn't anything new. The warrior class in Japan is an obvious example of this. Take your own life instead of being taken alive by the enemy, etc.
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  #42  
Old 05-19-2010, 08:26 PM
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Yeah, but doing because your catamite got killed?
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  #43  
Old 05-20-2010, 04:10 AM
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We're not talking about a Samurai, Chaos... we're talking about someone offing themselves because their cabana boy died. Nothing heroic about this. My goodness, what a lonely planet this would be if everyone killed themselves when they lost a loved one. Cowards and weaklings kill themselves over something like that. Not a hero.
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  #44  
Old 05-20-2010, 07:33 AM
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It's interesting the turns this discussion has taken. The prevailing argument seems to be "you can't kill yourself and be a hero, because killing yourself is not heroic." But heroes aren't heroic all the time and in every particular. Can't the protagonist be heroic in one area and weak in another?

I think the contrast between a person who faces cannon fire without flinching but can't face other realities of life is an interesting one. If it were handled with subtlety, I'd be interested. But I'd have a problem believing the story if the act of suicide itself was treated heroically. There's nothing heroic about killing yourself in despair.
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  #45  
Old 05-20-2010, 07:55 AM
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That's the whole thing, right there. Sacrificing life for honor (however nutty a concept that might be when examined) can have heroic dimensions. "I just don't want to keep living if I can't have what I want" is a different matter.

What you're describing is what's known as the "tragic flaw", what leads heroes to be tragic heroes like Othello and MacBeth and what not. Just which flaws can be tragic, but still heroic might be and interesting thesis for somebody. But I don't think despair and sadness count.
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  #46  
Old 05-20-2010, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by HoiLei View Post
I think the contrast between a person who faces cannon fire without flinching but can't face other realities of life is an interesting one. If it were handled with subtlety, I'd be interested. But I'd have a problem believing the story if the act of suicide itself was treated heroically. There's nothing heroic about killing yourself in despair.
Well, that's exactly what's being argued. The suicide can't be the climax, the sum of the character's actions, if the author wants the character to be remembered as heroic.
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  #47  
Old 05-20-2010, 06:12 PM
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It occurred to me that the criterion might just simply be that to commit suicide just because one can't face up to life any more is not heroic.

One thing heroes have in common: they face up to things. They're not summed up by a cop-out.
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  #48  
Old 05-22-2010, 05:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
Yeah, but doing because your catamite got killed?
You have to remember that a personal moral disagreement with the act doesn't mean that it can't work in the context of a novel. Unless you think there isn't an audience out there that would be receptive to that sort of thing.

A hero might go through with an abortion and a number of people will be morally opposed to this, but it doesn't have any relevancy with whether or not a writer can or cannot use it in his/her writing.
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  #49  
Old 05-22-2010, 07:03 AM
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I didn't say anything about "personal moral disagreement", though, did I? You're reading that into my remarks on your own.

Please don't.
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  #50  
Old 05-22-2010, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
Suicide isn't even tragic, really.
It's a pathetic copout.
In life and even more so in literature.
I'd say this says quite a bit about your opinion on the subject. Looks like you disagree with the idea of someone taking their life doesn't it?
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  #51  
Old 05-22-2010, 07:59 AM
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Duh. That's what the thread is about. If it's heroic for a character to kill himself just because life is a bummer.
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  #52  
Old 05-23-2010, 01:52 AM
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Lin, I think you've got your wires crossed. The question was: is it okay for an a heroic character to commit suicide, not 'is it heroic to commit suicide because life's a bummer'. You're arguing the latter (and on that point: so it's okay to commit suicide in honour, for one's country, and still remain a hero, but commit suicide and not remain a hero because poeple have thier own personal hells? Kind of reminds me of a twisted version of dulce et decorum est (pro patria mori) (Wilfred Owen) lol).

Suicide happens. Simple as. An author has as much right to portray a non-combatant related suicide as he does any other. Is it okay for a heroic person to commit suicide?

We had a suicide case last year over in England that rocked society to the core. A mother and her disabled kid had been terrorised by street gangs for years. She reported it the police every time (over 60 times) and nothing was done. After years of physical and psychological abuse, she took her and kid's life because there was no other way to end it. Do I see her as a coward for taking her and her kid's life? Hell no. She tried every way she could to make life not hurt for her and her kid. She took every step possible to make it stop. It didn't. And that's reality, as sad and twisted as it is. Sometimes it doesn't stop and the author should be free to portray that without getting the blanket statemet: suicide's a coward's game. Until you know the full personal circumstances, you can't judge.

Can you compare that to a military guy falling for another, getting caught in a love triangle, then killing himself? Could he keep an ounce of honor? So it's a cliched tail, but what story doesn't have echoes of another? It's how it's written and portrayed that makes the difference. If the author can maintain empathy for the main MC, anything is possible, including retaining an heroic element.

Just research your subject well. Visit a few 'help' sites for both surivors and the families of suicides. Get a sense of what feelings are left behind, how people act/react. You may not need all the info for your story, but it will give you a sense of what you're writing about. It's a sensitive subject.

But also listen to what Lin's saying: it gives you both sides of the coin, and as a writer you should be listening to both. Where people are being asked to be subjective in aa subjective discussion, as the potential author you need to stay objective. If Lin offers nothing more than 'it's cowardly and cliche' in the argument, or he's taking the discussion away from where you need it to go, just thank him and move on (your info source is exhausted, focus on the next). Just keep in mind that every opinion highlights society at its most diverse, and it's that kind of variety that brings your work to life.

Last edited by J.L.G.; 05-23-2010 at 03:19 AM..
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  #53  
Old 05-23-2010, 08:28 AM
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Actually, I neither have my wires crossed, nor am leading the discussion off. You seem to be spinning off into some kind of ether, I'd say, but that's okay. You're obviously heavily invested in suicide as a cool thing and out to make a point.

I'm just talking about literature.
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  #54  
Old 05-24-2010, 04:48 AM
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Lin:
I'm just talking about literature.
Lin also wrote (post 21):

There is nothing fucking heroic about killing yourself.
It's a cop out in real life
It's a cop out in literature.
Literature and life is mentioned there, my friend.

You're obviously heavily invested in suicide as a cool thing and out to make a point.
I'm parent to 17yr old boy that was raped at 14 and who then tried to commit suicide at 15. 'Cool thing' or 'cowardly' aren't terms I'd use to describe it: that would be professional suicide.
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  #55  
Old 05-24-2010, 04:56 AM
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Well, then it's pretty obviously YOU who are all bound up in moral judgements and strong opinions about suicide, not me.

If you you want to think there's something heroic about it, you just go right ahead. I can see you have both emotional and financial reasons for your agenda about it. Most of us don't.
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  #56  
Old 05-24-2010, 06:51 AM
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If Lin offers nothing more than 'it's cowardly and cliche' in the argument..., just thank him and move on (your info source is exhausted, focus on the next).
Thanks, Lin.
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  #57  
Old 05-24-2010, 07:09 AM
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You're weldome. I would like to think you're having some thoughts about trying to extend one's own agenda or trauma into a world view or structure for others.

If you want to think it's heroic for somebody to kill themselves because they were raped, fine. But I've known people who were raped several times in their lives. And people who were fucked repeatedly by family members for years. They managed to keep on living and deal with it. The idea of advocating suicide because of bad things happening to you is, at the real world level, sickening.

Suicides cop out of the situation in the most selfish way possible. They leave a mess for their loved ones to clean up, and to deal with. A don't think there are many parents of suicide kids who aren't consumed by guilt, in addition to the normal grief. To see that as being heroic is horrible.

My comments on "suicide for honor" and "doing the right thing with a pistol in a closed study" kind of crap is strictly literary. You can make it work in a book or movie. In real life I'd say killing oneself for honor is stupid and fucked-up.

There are men who feel it necessary to kill a woman for adultery in order to serve their honor. Is that heroic? If you think so, well, actually, if you think that, fuck you.
If you don't think so, then why would it be noble to kill one's self over honor. Much less over a bummer of the kind that most people come to grips with.

I hope your "professional" mention doesn't mean you're a psychiatrist. Last I looked that't the single profession most statistically prone to suicide.
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  #58  
Old 05-24-2010, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by J.L.G. View Post
We had a suicide case last year over in England that rocked society to the core. A mother and her disabled kid had been terrorised by street gangs for years. She reported it the police every time (over 60 times) and nothing was done. After years of physical and psychological abuse, she took her and kid's life because there was no other way to end it.
That's the saddest thing I've heard in a while. But surely there was something else she could have done. Continuing to try the same thing 60+ times when it isn't working is strange. Couldn't she move away? Was she so alone in the word that she didn't even have relatives or friends in another town to go to? If she was that alone in the world, she was probably on welfare (or England's equivalent), so she could just as well get on it in another area. A letter to the editors of local papers could have brought attention to the situation, and shamed the police department into action.

If she felt pushed as far as killing, why didn't she kill the bullies? If someone has to die, it should not be the victims. And the resulting investigation and trial would have gotten her and her child plenty of help from the same people who are horrified now about their deaths. Even her going to prison and her child being put into some kind of home would be more heroic than killing them both.

Honestly, I can't see her act as heroic. Tragic, yes, because she must have been really blinded and cornered to take the one option that removes all options. But not heroic, because heroism is about surmounting obstacles.
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  #59  
Old 05-24-2010, 07:39 AM
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That was my first thought on reading that. Don't kill yourself, kill the assholes.
(Unfortunately, that's generally my first thought on most confrontations, but that's another story.)
What's the worst that could happen if she started killing them? They'd kill her and her kid? Instead of her killing them herself?
She'd come to the attention of the police and press?
Her best bet would be to pick a really public place, then just wade in and start stabbing them. (Since England is so enlightened that nobody has guns). My guess is, the result would have been action that would have worked better for her than suicide.

And, again, even if somebody would decide that her way of coping was the best or her only way out...that doesn't make it noble or heroic. We all do things to cope that we don't consider heroic.

Imagine a movie in which a woman and child are menaced by thugs...but she just kills herself. Unless you're REALLY got this thing on your brain, you'd be disappointed, the artistic licence would have been violated. You were pulling for her to solve the problem, not just bug out.
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Old 05-24-2010, 08:13 AM
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I...(searches for words)...the story about the mother and what happened made me think of a story about Nazis. Maybe some of you have heard this one? A long time ago there was a woman, she knew about the camps and what happens when you go, she had I think 2 young children. When the Nazis were coming for her, she was unable to get away. So she took a rock and bashed both of them and then killed herself I can't remember how.

She loved her children so much that she didn't want them to suffer horrors at the hand of the Nazis. Should she have let them go? The woman with the gang...I don't know her story, I don't know why she didn't move there is more to it that none of us know.
In the case of this woman...should she have let the Nazis take her kids, and do whatever they wanted to them? She chose what she felt was the lesser of two evils.


From the mother's point of view and maybe from other adults she was a hero. From the child's point of view, they probably were very scared. They probably saw a loving motherly figure suddenly turn into someone causing them lots of pain, because they couldn't understand. The whole story changes when told from the mothers POV vs. the childs POV, and with that how they view the acts that are happening to them.

The same thing with mothers who kill their children because they're possessed with the devil, or to save them. They certainly see themselves as angelic and heroes. But others by majority would see them as deluisional. So maybe there I am saying it's a POV issue, and more of a how does your character feel about it and how does the rest of the world view it? Then in regards to your book, how do the readers see it?

'Heroism' is subjective. What is heroic to one is cowardly to another not only is it an individually opinion...it is also cultural.

So I guess for the writer, I would say define what heroism means for you and your characters. What does it mean to be heroic? And does it feel heroic when you write it? If you listen to everyone else you'll get a million people telling you a million things, but if it's a well written great story, unique in it's own way no matter what you do people will read, and they'll come up with why they liked or hated it.
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