Friday, June 26, 2009

Why Monks Are Always Wise

Yesterday, I talked about how writers turn to non-christian religions or non-mainstream denominations, such as the Amish, as a voice of reason in their novels. I don’t think writers are making a conscientious effort to support false religion, though this is what happens when medicine men and Buddhist monks are shown as great men of wisdom. Rather, these people provide a convenient means of filling a role that appears in many stories.

You’ve heard of the protagonist and the antagonist. There is another -agonist, the deuteragonist. As the name implies, the deuteragonist is the second most important character. At times, he may be the antagonist, but we often see a deuteragonist who is the sidekick or the voice of reason. The protagonist is facing a problem and doesn’t know how to handle it. It is often the role of the deuteragonist to offer suggestions, give warnings and advice that the protagonist needs in order to find a solution to the problem.

The mystery of some of these false religions gives authors a way to provide wisdom or unique tools that the protagonist needs to complete his task. A child is missing, so the fictional police bring in a psychic—not because psychics are all that great at finding children, but because the author has run out of clues to use and needs someone to give his protagonist something that will move the story forward. It does the same thing as an anonymous phone call, but is more interesting and doesn’t leave the dangling thread of wondering who the anonymous caller is.

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