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The Lion Seeker
"Here is the South African novel I've been waiting for." - Lynn Freed
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Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

Created: 08/24/14

Replies: 14

Posted Aug. 24, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

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Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

Isaac Helger is the novel's protagonist, but some readers will not identify with or like Isaac. Do Isaac's flaws and decisions affect your sympathy for him? Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature? How does Isaac compare?


Posted Sep. 02, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jeanettel

Join Date: 01/05/12

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

The most interesting characters in literature are the flawed ones. They help us understand ourselves as humans, Gatsby is a great example of a flawed character he is corrupt, ambitious, he craves power and acceptance.
Scarlett O’Hara also is very flawed, full of insecurities, selfish, hurtful and her obsession with Ashley won’t let her see her own happiness until it’s too late.


Posted Sep. 03, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
RebeccaF

Join Date: 08/24/14

Posts: 12

RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

It's definitely interesting to read a long novel about a main character who constantly frustrates you by making the wrong choices. I can remember how exasperated I got with Pip in Great Expectations, for instance. I've heard Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair described as being much like Scarlett O'Hara.


Posted Sep. 03, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joyces

Join Date: 06/16/11

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

Like Rebecca F it was interesting and frustrating to watch Isaac work so hard to make his life better but ultimately sabotage himself over and over. Fortunately the author kept him human enough and likeable enough to keep reading. Will admit there were times I really wanted to smack him. The recently published novel 'The Goldfinch' has a similar young man coming of age in difficult circumstances and he too tends to make some really bad choices but again I still continued to want him to succeed and be happy. I think that is called good writing.


Posted Sep. 03, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beac

Join Date: 08/23/11

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

I love a flawed protagonist. It makes him human and therefore endearing, even if you don't think you would like this person in real life. Maybe I see something of myself in a flawed protagonist. You understand what he is doing, know it is wrong, but forgive him for being have a weakness or two. I read "Harvest" by Jim Crace and loved the main character, even though he constantly made excuses for everything he did and seemed kind of like a low-life.


Posted Sep. 03, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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mary annb

Join Date: 04/14/11

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

I think its Issac's story, but the backdrop of that sorry encompasses his mother and her family, and South A frica itself.


Posted Sep. 03, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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mary annb

Join Date: 04/14/11

Posts: 16

RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

I don't think you need to like a protagonist, you just need to feel invested in what their story is and how it is going to turn out. For something recent, I'm thinking about Gone Girl, and neither of main characters were likable. Also someone pointed out Scarlet Ohara, and I completely agree. I have never liked that character, but you still want to see what happens to her.


Posted Sep. 04, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paml

Join Date: 10/25/12

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

No, I don't think a protagonist needs to be likeable for a novel to be successful, however the character needs to change and grow. I don't know if Issac really changed.


Posted Sep. 06, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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catherinem

Join Date: 10/06/11

Posts: 23

RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

No, we do not need a protagonist to be likable for a novel to be successful. Many Shakespearean characters (e.g., Hamlet, King Lear) are flawed. Others might include: J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, in The Catcher in the Rye; Alex, Anthony Burgess' Clockwork Orange protagonist (I really disliked him!); or even Homer's Odysseus. Flawed protagonists are ubiquitous in literature.


Posted Sep. 06, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebajane

Join Date: 04/21/11

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

I think its much easier to identify with a flawed character. None of us are perfect and sometimes it helps put our own shortcomings in perspective


Posted Sep. 07, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janeh

Join Date: 06/15/11

Posts: 158

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

I don't mind a flawed hero, but the character of Isaac was particularly difficult for me because he didn't seem to ever learn from his mistakes. There were a couple of times, early on in my reading, that I almost put the book down because I just couldn't connect with him. I am glad I journeyed on, as with people in real life, what is immediately visible isn't always what lies beneath. He was a hard character to connect with, probably a little because of the different languages interspersed with the scenes in the first third of the book. But, as I said, I am glad I kept with him because the book carried a powerful message and an important point of view from Africa during WWII.


Posted Sep. 09, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Lea Ann

Join Date: 04/20/11

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

No, in fact, IMO, sometimes the story is more interesting if the protagonist/narrator is unlikeable. I'm going way back, but Scarlett O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND was not, to me, a person to be liked, and yet the book would have been bland w/o her and certainly Isaac had few if any redeeming features. And yet, he was a magnet as it were for the reader. The one who moved the book along.


Posted Sep. 09, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
christineb

Join Date: 10/13/11

Posts: 46

RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

I actually liked Isaac and was always pulling for him to overcome his adversities. You can be flawed but still likable.


Posted Sep. 10, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MarieA

Join Date: 10/12/11

Posts: 149

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

Rarely do we have completely successful or perfect protagonists in a novel because realistically speaking humans are flawed. Realism in novels reflects life, and in life we see flaws in human nature. What is engaging is reading about characters in literature who are successful in overcoming their shortcomings and errors in judgment thereby enabling them to lead productive lives.


Posted Sep. 10, 2014 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joycew

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 75

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RE: Do we need to like a protagonist for a novel to be successful? Can you think of other flawed or unlikable "heroes" in literature?

I have never thought it was necessary to like the protagonist if the book is teaching you something new about a culture in a time frame. The core of the book is learning about the situation and options that the people had at that time and place. joycew


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