Monday, May 10, 2010

Seven Most Interesting Deaths

The lovely Jean Davis tagged me to come up with my seven favorite character deaths, whether in something I've written or read. This took a lot of thought for me. What constitutes death? I mean, does total erasure of previous personality and memories, or change to their actual physical form, count as a death? What about psychotic break? If the character has convinced herself that she is someone else (and I don't see her ever recovering), does that count?

I guess killing my characters isn't the worst I do to them. :D Of course, many of my own character's deaths are in unpublished stories. :( And I don't want to spoil them. So, I'm going to stick with deaths from things I've read. Although, "death" might be a debatable term in some of them.

1. My first pick is classic: Gollum. It's just such a perfect end to his arch, to his obsession. Frodo can't throw the ring into Mt. Doom, but Gollum can't live without it, and so he has to die with it. I think it's even better because it's not a conscious choice. There's no heroism in what Gollum does, only the ever present need to possess the one ring. It's been his constant drive and, though he may have wished it different, in the end he gets what he wants. Briefly, but forever.

2. The second is from a short story called The Troll by T.H. White. It isn't that the death itself is so momentous, just that it's so well described. The main character witnesses a troll eat a woman, and the description is so filled with a sense of mundane horror--that such an awful, grotesque thing could happen in the middle of a perfectly lovely inn, on a perfectly mundane trip--that it almost makes you believe it. The main character, half-convinced of his own madness and yet not enough so that he can ignore his fear, is so real you can almost taste him. And so can the troll. :D

3. My next favorite death comes from Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy, and how could it not? I don't want to spoil too much, but the books are about necromancers who, instead of raising the dead, are charged with laying them to rest. In the last book, the quest to lay a certain spirit to rest takes two of the characters beyond death's last gate, and they find themselves in death's final, irresistible, domain. All who look upon the heavens there are forced to face their own mortality, and to go when it's their time. Ready or not. I'm sure you can imagine how many people and things aren't ready to go, in a book about necromancers.

4. Next, I have to go with the death of everyone at the party in Poe's Masque of the Red Death. It's beautifully written, and I love his portrayal of the party-goers and their horror, and his description of the inexorable Red Death. It's one of those stories that just hits buttons... and stops clocks. :D

5. And, for something lighter, the "death" of wizards in Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles. It's not permanent, but it's quick and clean. Well... it's clean: just water and lemon juice, and you can wash that wizard right out of your hair.

6. There are many interesting deaths on Terry Pratchett's Discworld, but I have to say my favorite is the death of the wizard Wendel Poon in Reaper Man. As ready as he is to go, and though he dies, he's just not very good at staying that way. Poor Wendel.

7. Last, we come to the "death" of Coretti, from William Gibson and John Shirley's The Belonging Kind. This is one of those instances where "death" is a debatable term. But, Coretti as we know him at the story's beginning doesn't exist by the end, and it's a fascinating story.

Whew! *wipes sweat from brow* That wasn't as easy as I made it look, but it was fun! Thanks for the tag, Jean!

3 comments:

Jean Davis said...

I love what you did with this. :) Gollum is a good one!

Margaret West said...

I second Gollum. orrible little man!!! (bit like my exhusband!!)

Marion Sipe said...

Thanks ladies! Gollum's death has got to be my favorite. It just makes so much sense!