Some characters are just plain baffling


I wrote a bit earlier in the month about Patricia Highsmith's The Blunderer. The book was really enjoyable to read but I did have some doubts / concerns about the main character's actions and decisions. I suspended disbelief and I went along with it even while my inner reader was saying, 'Really? Would someone really behave like that or react like that?'

Despite these niggling doubts, I was interested enough in Highsmith's work to order Strangers on a Train, her first novel, and to set about reading it. Once again, the doubts started to creep in. The MCs decisions seem utterly baffling... I don't want to spoil it for others but early on in the novel a very simple, very straightforward course of action presents itself, which one would have thought that any sane person would take. But he doesn't. And so descends into a self-imposed hell. Perhaps the key is in the word 'sane'. Is the point that the MC, like his antagonist, is not sane? To all intents and purposes he seems perfectly compos mentis but to do what he does, he can't be. Can anyone influence a sane person in such a profound way that he or she acts so destructively? Perhaps that's a question that only a psychologist can answer. But if anyone reading this has got any ideas, please let me know!

Meanwhile, I will be seeking out Hitchcock's film version to discover whether it sheds more light on the characters' motivations and conduct.

On the subject of dysfunctional MCs and anti-heroes, I cannot recommend highly enough Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre. This book is mad and utterly compelling; I absolutely love it. It has been on the A-level English syllabus although I'm not sure that it still is - and is often compared with Salinger's brilliant Catcher in the Rye. If you are looking for a roller-coaster ride that will sweep you along from beginning to end, give this a try.

Once again, it would be great to know how you get on.

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