The iceberg opponent

While skipping through Anatomy of Story by John Truby, I landed on a section called The Iceberg Opponent.

Truby argues, to make your antagonist as dangerous as possible, you should create a hierarchy of opponents, and “hide the hierarchy from the hero and the audience”.

This worries me slightly because Adam’s opponents aren’t really hidden from him. The only element really hidden from him is the true nature of prohibition, and I’m not sure if that’s enough?

Adam’s main opponent is Reiner, he wants to stop Adam achieving his desire, saving Christine. As the plot develops, Adam encounters ever more hostile forces, police, military, insects. These are less hidden opponents, and more a hierarchy of force.

Why would they hide?

As I’ve noted in an earlier post “prohibitionist’s aren’t shy about telling us they think users should be killed”. Truby urges you to “always look for the deepest conflict that your hero and opponent are fighting over”.

In “The antagonist’s antagonist” I note Adam and Reiner are actually fighting over the kind of society they live in. Which version will prosper? “Will it be a society of freedom ultimately chosen by Adam or will it be a society of security demanded by Reiner?”

So this is a fight for freedom or security.

If you dig even deeper security is actually an analogue of power. I often quip prohibition isn’t about public health, it’s about public control. It’s a aphoristic way of saying prohibition is a mechanism used to control the population.

Adam’s real opponent, the opponent hidden at the deepest part of the iceberg, is actually power. Not just any power, the power to destroy an entire class of people, because they don’t fit their view of how you should live in the world.

What Reiner is actually fighting for is tyranny.


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