An Antagonizing Journey


The Antagonist, by Lynn Coady, draws on literary archetypes to help draw readers into its story. Not sure what literary archetypes are? Check out this link to learn more.

The main character, Gordon Rankin, follows the classic archetypal hero’s inner journey. As you can see in the previous link, when a hero’s inner journey begins they are not yet aware that they have a problem that must be addressed. As their journey continues, the hero begins to recognise this problem more and more and then begins to fix it. Sometimes the problems come down to life or death. The hero must overcome their problem and master their new self; only then is their inner journey complete.

In the opening sections of The Antagonist, Rankin is generally considered to be a tough guy who loves being aggressive and getting into fights. He uses his size to his advantage and looks down at smaller and weaker kids. He describes people based on their size, and compares others to him, often finding them lacking. At the beginning of his journey to self-enlightenment, Rankin doesn’t grasp his problematic attitude and behavior.

Later on in the book, Rankin gets in a fight with a smaller kid named Mick Croft and knocks him out (107). This fight starts because Rankin works for his dad at the Icy Dream, and his dad uses him a weapon to keep customers in line. His dad is well aware of his son’s size, and if someone breaks the rules his dad sends Rankin to take care of the problem. Rankin’s fight with Mick starts because Mick and Rankin’s dad do not get along. By this stage of his inner journey, the hero Rankin realizes the error of his ways. He’s filled with remorse and feels as though “a certain goose had walked over [his] grave” (107). Rankin is well on his way to realizing he has a serious problem that needs to be fixed.

Our hero Rankin’s inner journey is in full swing when he stands up to one of his friends because his friend hits a woman. When he hears his friend Kyle had rough sex and potentially hurt his lover, “Rank has an urge to knock him over” (203). At the beginning of the story, Rankin would have just laughed about this incident with his friends, but now he’s actually standing up for the woman. This clearly shows how he’s passing through the stages of an inner journey to self-awareness. Instead of celebrating violence, Rankin now is filled with rage by it.

I’m looking forward to watching Rankin continue his archetypal hero’s inner-journey throughout the rest of the book. I think he’ll continue to evolve into a better person and use his size and strength for good and not evil. He’ll become a protector and no longer be a menace like he was at the beginning of the novel. It’s possible that the changes he’s making will cause him to lose friends because people will view him as weak. I think, however, that this will not be the message that Coady will send to her readers.


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