Let’s Talk Bookish – Redemption Arcs

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where they discuss certain topics, share their opinions, and spread the love by visiting each others’ posts.


Examples: Do you like redemption arc plotlines? What are some of your favorites? What makes up a good redemption arc? Can any character be redeemed or are there some characters that are too far gone?

Hi everyone, and welcome to December’s first LTB! Now that it’s officially Christmas season (or holidays for those who don’t celebrate), my only wish this year is to be able to sit and relax and read. Alas in the light of the news and the world as it is, any moment of peace would be great. But I digress. Today’s topic is from our very own co-host, Dani, and if you don’t follow her already, go and check out her awesome blog (linked above)!

I personally like redemption arc plotlines. Do I need it in every book? Probably not. But a well written one really does tug at the heartstrings. I’ve always loved morally grey and ambiguous characters, as they really make you think about your perspective of what is right and wrong, and how that can change in the blink of an eye.

I think Snape had a really interesting redemption arc, where it didn’t really justify anything, but at least it explained a lot (for me, I was always worried why Dumbledore had inherent trust, so that was answered). I can’t think of any others off the top of my head, but I think I care more about exploring the morally grey (Evelyn Hugo, Kaz Brekker, Legend, etc.) rather than an actual redemption arc. Redemption can really be hit or miss, as it can be jarring to have to reverse your perspective on a character.

I won’t claim to be the expert on redemption arcs, but I think they tend to work better when there are hints of uncertainty, or perhaps hints of a change (or willingness to change) in the character arc. If there’s a bit of suspense as to whether the character could go either way and teeter on the balance, I think that makes for good emotional drama. If it’s an obvious redemption arc, I would still like to see that gradual change. One thing I often look for in characters is consistency of character, and if anything happens too suddenly, it often isn’t natural or just feels like we can’t appreciate the change.

Can any character be redeemed? I think so. But I think the more important question is, why would you? Does every character need to have a tragic backstory as to why they are the way they are? I think if every bad character had a redemption arc, it would really tkae out the significance of having these characters. It’s nice to have characters who feel strongly for the wrong cause or out of the wrong moral reasons. I think that in itself also challenges us to really reassess our own perspectives, rather than shoe-horning our version of “good” onto everyone.

What do you all think though? I feel like much of what I said today is abstract, but hopefully you all understood! Do any of you have particularly strong feelings about whether it is good or bad? Or is there merely a time and place for everything? Let me know in the comments below!

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