It’s difficult to remember that villains have feelings, too.
I know in the books you read a lot about the bad guy becoming the bad buy because of the fact that he has feelings and someone has hurt them. I’m thinking more…realistically, though, if I can presume so much. I thinking of Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility.
Willoughby does a couple of horrible things. Not horrible things like killing people, razing nunneries, or subverting nations, horrible things to the emotions of real, life-like characters. To toy with the emotions of young ladies is a horrible thing.
Sociology tells us that, as a rule, teenage girls give themselves wholeheartedly to a relationship. (If you ask for sources, I’ll punch you in the face.) Mr. Willoughby plays the carefree fool with not one, but two young ladies in the novel, along with the second one’s entire family. He loves them and leaves them. In the first case, he leaves the girl quite a bit more encumbered than when he found her.
It was very easy not to like Willoughby by the time he shuns Marianne’s advances at the party in London. The novel later reveals that his emotions, in truth, got wrapped up in his dalliance with Marianne as well, however it is shown that everything he did, he did out of selfishness. At no time was he thinking about anyone else’s feelings other than his own.
Through all this, I came to greatly dislike the character of Willoughby. I thought he justly deserved everything bad that happened to him, not that there was very much of it. If he was forced to live without Marianne for the rest of his life, well, he didn’t deserve her anyway. I hoped that his heart was broken, smashed, and mangled and that he would be melancholic the rest of his days.
How very horrible of me.
His character is a man. He is a human. Just because he has been selfish and hurt others doesn’t mean he is devoid of feeling. Yes, he needs to learn to be less self-centered. He needs to be less egotistical. He needs to think about others, over even himself, if possible. He does not deserve to be wished life-long despondency. He does not deserve to be ever tormented by his actions. As a very human character, a foil for some of the worst faults the rest of us has, he deserves forgiveness. He deserves the opportunity to better himself and prove to others his transformation.
Shame on me if I don’t allow him the grace to mature beyond this point is his life, and shame on me if I forever condemn any living person for their temporary follies.