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Character Immortality


  

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  1. 1. Is plot armor a problem in WoT?



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EDIT:

 

After seeing the amount of debate and discussion on this issue in this thread, I figured it'd be nice to see at a glance what people think, hence the poll. I kept the question and answers very simple so it wouldn't be hard to decide which side you're on, to minimize the "gray area".

 

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ORIGINAL:

As much as I love WoT and RJ, this is one of his series' major flaws, he just cannot seem to kill off a main character!

 

-Thom fights the Fade one on one, tackling it and all he gets is a bad knee!

 

-Moiraine was "dead" for I lost count how many books and she's know magically back in time for AMoL, albeit with a lowering in power but... oh wait, she has an angreal that more than makes up for it .

 

-Faile got captured by the Shaido for around three 700 page books and she's back "better at leadership" than she was before.

 

-Not only does he shield the good guys, he keeps bringing back the bloody Forsaken! *starts ticking off fingers* Ishamael, Lanfear, Aginor, Balthamel.... I mean come on!

 

I got thinking about this after Emu on the Loose mentioned it in the WoT in Retrospect thread, and it's really quite true. Now this is not a "hate on RJ" thread so please don't take it that way- he did have some decent darker things happen to the characters like the loss of Rand's hand and that of Mat's eye which I give him the due credit for, but if the various theories on this are correct, Rand will just do a body swap after dying and get a nice healthy Moridin(IIRC) body afterewards so not only will he not die, he'll get his hand back. Additionally I acknowledge that people will in fact die in AMoL but it's not only the last book in the entire series that ought to have mature themes of death etc in it that make it a deep read, the rest of the series ought to as well, IMO.

 

What do you guys think? Any characters that survived perfectly after crazy things I missed? I'm sure I did. Any darker stuff that happened that ought to be mentioned? Again, I bet there is. This is just what I got off the top of my head.

Edited by Ashandarei
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Jordan was pretty clearly in love with each of his main characters, yes.

 

It is always possible that things will change, right at the end. Did you ever see The Departed?

 

I think the Moridin body-swap theory would be nice in the sense that Rand's harem would get to experience a little variety, as he does.

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It does have it's downside. Just imagine if, after hundreds of pages had been devoted to Perrin's, "FAAAAAIILLLLLEEE!!!!!" arc, he had just ...died.

 

That's pretty much the Red Wedding.

Edited by randsc
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Jordan was pretty clearly in love with each of his main characters, yes.

 

It is always possible that things will change, right at the end. Did you ever see The Departed?1

 

I think the Moridin body-swap theory would be nice in the sense that Rand's harem would get to experience a little variety, as he does.2

 

1I did, and I loved it right up until the end, then I hated it lol. The author/screenwriter took the easy way out and killed both the main good guys(the Captain and the Mole) and both the main bad guys(the Irish Mafia head guy and Matt damon), pissed me off :rolleyes: Admittedly, part of it was that the mole good guy died but I digress...

 

2LOL!! I might just agree if only for that reason

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That's your complain in a series that the main characters special power is plot armor ? Really ?

 

Like I said, I love the series, I wouldn't be here on the forums spending time talking about it and learning more about it if I didn't but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have flaws. Also, character shielding is a real problem that authors sometimes have and I think it's quite valid to address it.

Edited by Ashandarei
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I don't really mind, because I'm as fond of the main characters as RJ probably was. Wouldn't have minded Moiraine staying dead or maybe Egwene getting bumped off. And Aviendha. But other than those, I'm quite happy for everyone to live as long as they have a satisfactory part to play when it comes to main characters.

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I don't really mind, because I'm as fond of the main characters as RJ probably was. Wouldn't have minded Moiraine staying dead or maybe Egwene getting bumped off. And Aviendha. But other than those, I'm quite happy for everyone to live as long as they have a satisfactory part to play when it comes to main characters.

 

The characters I mentioned above are not at all one's I'd like to have killed off, except Faile, her getting offed would be quite satisfying, I just chose the ones I thought survived encounters where characters shouldn't necessarily have, particularly Thom.

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That's your complain in a series that the main characters special power is plot armor ? Really ?

 

Like I said, I love the series, I wouldn't be here on the forums spending time talking about it and learning more about it if I didn't but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have flaws. Also, character shielding is a real problem that authors sometimes have and I think it's quite valid to address it.

I won't dispute that, I simply find it funny how that annoys you since it was pretty obvious from the start how the series would go about killing characters.

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I don't really mind, because I'm as fond of the main characters as RJ probably was. Wouldn't have minded Moiraine staying dead or maybe Egwene getting bumped off. And Aviendha. But other than those, I'm quite happy for everyone to live as long as they have a satisfactory part to play when it comes to main characters.

 

The characters I mentioned above are not at all one's I'd like to have killed off, except Faile, her getting offed would be quite satisfying, I just chose the ones I thought survived encounters where characters shouldn't necessarily have, particularly Thom.

 

Well Thom I can understand, because if the Fade had bothered to kill him he might have lost Mat and Rand, plus Thom's had a part to play in later books.

 

The person I think has escaped death in silly circumstances is Moiraine. Aginor wastes enough time on her to do something which makes her scream, yet doesn't kill her or even shield her. I could understand him ignoring her completely, but doing something to hurt her when he could kill her in the blink of an eye is stupid. Then she walks in on Be'lal and he waits politely for her to say a few words then balefire him. Then she tackles Lanfear. Then she gets trapped in fin land for goodness knows how long.

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Killing main characters is something I loathe with very few exceptions, so I don't really care so much. I prefer happy endings.

 

I do too, which is why I *want* Rand to survive the end and hence am happy he will, from the looks of it, but I like the bittersweet taste of victory when the good side wins but it's made a deeper experience by the fact that it wasn't a perfect victory. So while I may be rooting for Rand to win, I'm also looking forward(for lack of a better term) for other characters to go out in a final burst of intense plot (such as Min for example)

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I very much doubt that MoL is going to be as bloodless for the Hero ranks as we have seen so far.

My front runners are Egwene and Perrin not making it through.

Gawyn with those 3 Bloodknife rings is a monster set up for Egwene dieing and Gawyn going balistic with them after if I ever saw one.

Min's viewing of Perrin with trees flowering all around him waaay back in tEotW has always gnawed at me and given his charater's parallels to Thor...I don't like his chances in a last battle/Ragnarok situation.

 

I also don't expect Cadsuane or Birgitte to make it either.

My theory is Birgitte will die saving Elayne from Mellar.

Edited by Finnssss
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I don't really mind, because I'm as fond of the main characters as RJ probably was. Wouldn't have minded Moiraine staying dead or maybe Egwene getting bumped off. And Aviendha. But other than those, I'm quite happy for everyone to live as long as they have a satisfactory part to play when it comes to main characters.

 

The characters I mentioned above are not at all one's I'd like to have killed off, except Faile, her getting offed would be quite satisfying, I just chose the ones I thought survived encounters where characters shouldn't necessarily have, particularly Thom.

 

Gawyn surviving against three bloodknives while successfully protecting their real target from any harm. That, to me, is the one that stands out the most.

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I wish Faile would have died. That would have made Perin snap, turning him into the hardened wolfmaster General warlord badass he needs to be for the Last Battle.

More likely:
“You can have her back, Kinslayer. The Great Lord of the Dark can make her live again, if you will serve him. If you will serve me.”
“Burn the Pattern,” Perrin growled. “It can all burn, if it keeps her safe.”

Now that would have been an entertaining twist.

 

WOT is more a character-driven story than a thematic one or a quest-based epic, and killing characters is kind of an insult to those who have invested time in watching them develop. That's why I'm not really a fan of ASOIAF despite the quality of writing; the first major death was excellent, and I assumed it was in the development of theme, but as the orgy of violence goes on the only real theme that's left is 'look how horrible it is that all these people are dying.' That doesn't really present many opportunities for escapism. The major character death in PON worked because it's much more traditionally epic in scope than WOT, and because it's fundamentally an examination of the character of Kellhus, while even the other major POV characters are secondary. I could go on with examples, but "bittersweet" is usually just "bitter" in the end. I don't want bittersweet.

Edited by moratcorlm
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Guest Emu on the Loose

One reason I never much liked comic book drama is that nobody important ever dies, and, if there are ever any exceptions to that, the melodrama just goes through the roof. I much prefer stories where important characters don't have any plot armor, and stand a good chance of dying when it is plausible for them to die. With another contemporary epic fantasy series, Harry Potter, I remembered how surprised I was when JK Rowling killed off:

 

 

the owl.

 

After that, the deaths just started piling up. She "got it" when it came to the dramatic value of letting realism have its say. Make no mistake: Even in fantasy settings, without a measure of realism you can't really have a serious drama.

 

I'm not sure which part of WoT grates on me more: the invincibility of top-level good guys, or the resurrection of the Forsaken. Both of these are two sides of the same coin, and that coin, rather than possessing value, serves only to devalue the confrontations between Light and Shadow that have taken place in the course of the series.

 

"What? Another Forsaken died?" Mat's early look of astonishment gave way to an amused grin. "Light' date=' who even cares? They'll be back! And they'll be killed again." With a chuckle he thought to himself of something Moiraine had used to say: The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.[/quote']

 

It's not that authors have to kill off main characters. Forcing it would be as artificial as forcing them to live. Rather, in the context of an epic fantasy, it's just not realistic to expect that a ragtag bunch of heroes could survive, without a single death among them, a struggle to save the world from Supreme Evil.

 

Maybe things will change in AMoL. Maybe the Last Battle will open the floodgates on character deaths. But it doesn't really matter. For us to be thirteen books into the series now, still without a top-level death for the good guys, has already diminished my enjoyment of the story. Not enough to give up on the series, obviously, or I wouldn't be posting here, but enough for me to gripe and moan about it here on the boards. So I hope you'll take my rant in the spirit in which it is intended.

 

Perhaps we can make a special exemption for Rand, and, in keeping with the series' sense of balance, for Ishamael. But nobody else ought to have so much protection from death. It just cheapens things, and that's all I can say.

 

Oh, final thought: When it comes to resurrecting the Forsaken, RJ did have one legitimate justification: The DO is "Lord of the Grave." That idea got introduced early on in the series. If this theme had been executed better, it could have been very interesting. But as it turned out, the 'Gars were pathetic and so far Cyndane has been pathetic too. Moridin has been better, at least, but the lack of confrontations between Moridin and Rand have undermined Rand's incredible victory over Ishy at the Stone of Tear in TDR.

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I remember before ToM came out, Brandon said something about how he gets to play "butcher" or something, and that it will be a bloodbath before it's all over or something. I remember when he tweeted about how sad it was to kill off a character in the books, though he didn't say who.

 

After reading ToM, I still feel like nobody important has died yet. I dunno, I love a lot of these characters but there better be blood in the last book! Real. Important. Blood. It makes everything more impactful, IMO.

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I also don't expect Cadsuane or Birgitte to make it either.

My theory is Birgitte will die saving Elayne from Mellar.

 

I'm thinking Birgitte will make it through because of Min's viewings of her with a man that was both older and younger than her (Cain). Because she was ripped out of TAR, she'll get to play older woman this time through.

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t's just not realistic to expect that a ragtag bunch of heroes could survive, without a single death among them, a struggle to save the world from Supreme Evil.
But they haven't. There have been plenty of deaths on the side of the light. What you want is death of heavily characterized heroes, which is a completely different matter. You want shaggy dog stories, not drama but tragedy and very extensively built-up tragedy at that.

 

What are you reading that hasn't had a single death? Just among Light-side characters who have had a known impact on the plot, we have Geofram Bornhald, Aram, Ingtar, Verin, Masema, Pedron Niall, Eamon Valda, Carlinya, Anaiya, Adeleas, Vandene, Turak, Renna, Asmodean, Meilan, Couladin, Nalesean, Colavaere, Nicola, Eben, Asunawa, Morr, Toram Riatin, Herid Fel, Lopin, Tylin, Reanne Corly, Jain Farstrider, Sareitha, Nesta din Reas, Daigian, Rolan, and Mishima. And I'm sure that all of them had their own hopes and dreams and ambitions and plans and full lives, but that simply doesn't matter because they're dead. And unless their death has a highly unusual role to play in the story, as Verin's did, that's reason enough to scrub them out of the way retroactively.

 

The point of a closely subjective, limited-POV narrator is to induce empathy, and I don't think a lot of people get much of a kick out of having people with whom they empathize suddenly killed. Better by far to distance yourself from the dead. We can't do that retroactively with real people, of course, but in fiction the author is God, and can make the choice to be a helpful god who doesn't prey upon our empathy or a sociopathic one who manipulates it to cause frustration.

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Guest Emu on the Loose

What are you reading that hasn't had a single death?

The point you are making is correct: RJ killed off many supporting characters. Indeed, he was absolutely vicious with his supporting characters. However, that isn't relevant to the point I was making, which is that all of the main protagonists and practically all of the second-level protagonists are still alive. For the purposes of drama, the distinction between main characters and supporting characters is important. You acknowledged this when you went on to say:

 

What you want is death of heavily characterized heroes, which is a completely different matter.

Yes, it is a completely different matter. When a "highly characterized" character dies, the death influences the themes of the story to the extent that that character's existence informed those themes. For instance, the survival of all of the main protagonists (especially when coupled with the deaths of most of the main antagonists) imparts to WoT a theme of fatalism. Fatalism shifts the story value away from what will happen to the question of how.

 

That, by itself, wouldn't be a problem, except that RJ had always focused on the "what." What will happen in WoT? His great refrain was "Read And Find Out." That's how the style of the series is oriented. RJ rarely told us IC what would happen--he even went out of his way to avoid divulging that information--but we learned to predict the course of the story anyway, with decent success, through consistencies such as the survival of the main characters. Ergo the structure itself of WoT points another way than the style--it tells us that we can count on the good guys to survive their confrontations--and this is where literary critique comes into play: That's not good writing. A writer strives for their style and structure to complement each other, not send competing messages to the reader.

 

RJ said it himself on many occasions in many ways that the Shadow is all but guaranteed a victory, yet his actual books up to this point have said just the opposite: The Light is all but guaranteed a victory. This sort of contradiction catches in the minds of critical readers, and leads to value judgments such as "I have a problem with how all the main characters have survived in WoT up to this point."

 

You want shaggy dog stories, not drama but tragedy and very extensively built-up tragedy at that.

If I am understanding you correctly, that assessment is a caricature of what I actually think. I'm not especially rooting for "tragedy" in WoT, either in the strict or the popular sense of the word. It isn't important to me that main protagonists die just so that we can be wounded by their loss. As for your contention that I want the ending of WoT to be pointless, that does not even warrant a reply.

 

Rather, it is important for me that main protagonists not be immune from death so that we may better appreciate what is supposed to be the principal theme of the series: the confrontation between, and balance of, Light and Shadow. There are many ways in which RJ cheapened his own central theme, and one of these shortfalls is that the main good guys all live while the main bad guys so far are on course to all die. What kind of balance is that? At the level of the supporting cast, there has been some give-and-take between Light and Shadow, but, although that has done good work in painting a strong background of conflict, the disparate fate of the good and bad main characters illustrates that RJ just wasn't able to stay on-message.

 

In Jordan's defense, perhaps his failure was not entirely his own fault as a writer, but also partly a result of the difficulties of combining multiple mythologies and ethics systems, as he tried to do. The Aes Sedai symbol represents balance and energy, as does the symbolism of Creator and Destroyer, yet the conflict between "Light" and "Shadow" is purely one of Western morality's notion of Good versus Evil. I'm particularly attuned to this conflict of philosophies, because, as you could probably tell by reading my posts or my signature, I sympathized with Mierin Eronaile completely, and I share her frustration that the WoT universe doesn't really have a way of letting her pursue her ambitions legitimately. Not only that, but we're almost guaranteed that as a Forsaken she'll be killed in AMoL, while Rand will go on to achieve everything she wanted for herself, simply because he didn't put on the wrong colors and she did, which in RJ's mind made sense. That, at last, brings me to another gripe about the disparity between main protagonist survival and main antagonist death (and resurrection (and death)) in Wheel of Time: It editorializes on the legitimacy of the two sides, in a way that intrudes upon the reader's freedom to make their own decision.

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