Dealing with Evil in Literature

I’m writing my next novel and am having trouble. The new work takes one of the darker characters from my previous novel and tells his story. It’s not a nice tale.

There is a missing child, evidence that gets half destroyed, half hidden, nobody knows the whole truth, only one person can put it all together. The trouble is, getting to the place where he can do that takes him deep into places he most fears.

We met the character, Bundy, in They Told Me I Had To Write This. Bundy is a bully and a firesetter. But he wasn’t always like that. He had to start from somewhere, and he started from a good place. So how does a nice little kid grow into a Bundy?

Well, it happens through a process of the experience of evil. And that brings me to the title of this blog post.

What is it? Evil, I mean. What is evil? Where does it come from? How do we manufacture it, or amplify it, or acquiesce in it, or manage it?

Does it exist in its own right? Is it endemic in human experience? Can we say that earthquakes or tornadoes are evil?

Is there anything to learn from Star Wars on this topic? Does the Dark Side add anything to our understanding of evil? It has captured the imagination of a vast number of people, but does it reflect reality?

I have a writer friend who describes evil as a parasite. It can only exist with a host and the host is ‘Good’. Good can exist by itself, but evil can only exist by sucking its sustenance from Good.

Ursula Le Guin wrote ‘The Wizard of Earthsea’ many years ago. It deals with Ged, a boy who is recognised to have unusual powers and he is sent to wizard school. (This book is nothing like Harry Potter, by the way.) Very soon he is in conflict with another student and in a contest of power he evokes a black shadowy monster from deep under the earth. He spends the rest of the story firstly running from it, then pursuing it to destroy it. In the final encounter he faces the monster and before it can speak he names it with his own name, gaining mastery over it. By the time of this final encounter he has learned the humility that would have prevented the original event from ever having happened.

So, is evil something that lives in each of us and needs to be named if it is to be tamed?

Somewhere in among all this is the path that Bundy follows. If only I could figure it out as easily as I can put these thoughts together.

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One Response to “Dealing with Evil in Literature”

  1. Literature » Dealing with Evil in Literature « Scribbly Gum Says:

    […] See a strange post:  Dealing with Evil in Literature « Scribbly Gum […]

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