The antagonist’s antagonist

In an earlier post “Adam’s opponents” I mentioned John Truby‘s notion of four cornered opposition.

The strategy increases the depth of a story, by increasing the number of opponents the protagonist has to deal with. It makes all the characters more rounded, because he’s forced to deal with the central problem of the story, from at least three other points of view.

For Carrion I’ve designed a four cornered opposition which places Adam in conflict with Reiner. They’re the mirror of each other, similar in many ways, but because Adam decides to save Christine they become mortal enemies.

Reiner is the prototypical prohibitionist fighting with Adam over the kind of society they live in, which version of society will prosper? Will it be a society of freedom ultimately chosen by Adam, or a society of security demanded by Reiner?

Adam’s second opponent is Christine. Although she’s his sister and it’s his attempts to save her that put him conflict with Reiner, they’re still in conflict with each other. While she articulates the point of view of the drug user in the story, deep down their opposition is about how he treats his younger sibling. Is he able to respect her point of view, treat her as an equal, behave more compassionately, less patriarchally towards her?

The final character in this four cornered opposition is Sexton. He’s not only in opposition with Adam and Christine but also Reiner. He is the binary opposite to Reiner, the antagonist’s antagonist, articulating the dealer’s point of view in the story, I think? When I fist envisioned Sexton he was the stereotypical drug dealer. I had in my head the many incarnation of drug dealers in cinema, the hapless career criminal of Henry Hill in Goodfellas. He get’s high on his own supply, and drops himself straight into witness protection. I thought of the accent wielding, coke snorting, gun touting nihilist Tony Montana in Scarface. Before considering the calculating, ruthless, out for profit businesspersons of Carlos and Helena Ayala portrayed in Traffic.

The thing is, none of these interpretation of a drug dealers represent my understanding of who Sexton is in Carrion. It wasn’t until I realised Sexton has to be more optimistic that I started to get a handle on who he really is. A large part of that realisation came while reading Jack London’s “The Iron Heel”. A dystopian fiction about the rise of an oligarchic tyranny in the United States. Completed in 1908 London’s novel is based on the fictional “Everhard Manuscript” written by Avis Everhard, hidden and subsequently found centuries later. Added to this manuscript are a series of footnotes written by fictional scholar Anthony Meredith around 2600 AD. It’s a Marxist interpretation of capital told as a love story between Avis and Ernest Everhard. Avis is the middle class daughter of an academic whose eyes are opened to the plight of the proletariat at the hands of the plutocracy. Ernest Everhard is a hero of the working man who is martyred by the oligarchy as he attempts to progress the revolution and progress society to a socialist future. He’s a smart character with a clear view of the world and what he is fighting for.

Reading The Iron Heel made me realise that Sexton needs to have something of the Ernest Everhard’s about him. Adam’s not going to respond to the hapless actions of a character like Henry Hill. He’s not going to listen to the nihilistic rants of a Tony Montana. The ruthless logic of a businessman like Carlos Ayala won’t persuade him to see the world differently. Adam’s only going to respond to someone who is able to see what’s happening and articulate enough to communicate it. He has to be intelligent, articulate, and willing to take direct action.

I’m a little worried that he might come across as unbelievable, somewhat fanciful, an idealist. I know it’s a risk, but take solace in having encountered one or two character who are evangelical about drugs, who take pride in proselytising the grace offered by psychotropic substances.

Carrion needs Sexton, it needs him to show Adam how to live in the world.


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