Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: A Villain That I Wish Could Be Redeemed and Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

This week’s topic was tricky for me because I’m not a huge fan of redemption arcs in most cases. Too often they’re used to brush terrible choices under the rug due to the villain having a sad or tragic backstory. I’ve known plenty of people who have similar histories but who have consciously chosen to break those patterns and live gentle, good lives.

So it irritates me a little bit when a villain is given a pass for choosing to inflict the pain they felt onto new victims. There are so many other ways to create well-rounded characters in my opinion that don’t make the assumption that experiencing X somehow makes it okay for you do it to someone else.

And yet I must stick to the topic at hand and answer Long and Short Review’s question. 😉

Trunchbull saying "I'll be watching you. All of you."

Therefore, I’m going to with Agatha Trunchbull from Roald Dahl’s Matilda. She was the headmistress of the school Matilda attended, and yet she truly seemed to hate her job and children in general.

Given that this book was written in 1988 but could have been set a few decades before that, I wonder if Trunchbull ended up in teaching because women weren’t welcomed in the career that would have actually fit her.

This isn’t an excuse for the way she treated her students or employees at all. She was a horrible administrator who should have been fired years earlier.

But I do wonder if her gender and severe lack of patience with children set her up for failure, especially after a couple of decades of being trapped in a job that was such an awful fit for her personality and interests.

It would have been nice to have that closure for her. Maybe she became a kinder and happier person after she was (rightfully) forced to leave Matilda’s school? What do you all think?

33 Responses to Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: A Villain That I Wish Could Be Redeemed and Why

  1. This is such an interesting challenge — and answer. All your thoughts make perfect sense, and is something that probably still happens to women in different professions.

  2. Yes. I can see her finding a new job — maybe something entry-level, and then discovering that she has an aptitude for numbers and moving on and up to become quite a successful accountant, say.

  3. Wow, Agatha Trunchbull – controversial pick! For me, she was always terrifying and she’d never have been my first choice for a happy ending. But you present a really interesting argument. She clearly hated her job and her resentment made her an appalling person, so what if she’d found the right path earlier? Humm… something to mull!

    • Thanks. 🙂 It took me ages to decide if I was going to participate this week or who I could possibly pick.

      And, yeah, she was a terrifying character. But I think people become terrifying for good reasons in most cases.

  4. Not familiar with the movie, but from the clip she reminds me of my 7th grade English teacher. I was scared to death of her. Later I hears she quit teaching because when she called a parent the father came to school and beat his son up in the hallway. She was human after all.

  5. This is a really interesting pick! Would make an interesting alternate POV read – though I think the child in all of us is happier to see her chased out and gone!

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  7. I had a far from happy time in my schooldays and I must admit, my thoughts never turn in this direction and I’m not inclined to have sympathy for bad bosses, bullies, etc.

    I know of a ‘villain’ who must be redeemed, because he wasn’t actually a villain.

    I was watching the excellent tv series The Last Kingdom (I’d recommend reading the books by the master storyteller, Bernard Cornwell, and watching the tv series), which was set in the midst of the struggle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings.

    The Welsh ruler, Hywel Dda, was presented on tv as a cunning and grasping man who hated the Anglo-Saxons and only fought alongside them so he could gain money & slaves for his own use. In fact he was a great man and a great ruler who was second only to his ally Athelstan among rulers of that time.

    At the end of series 4 of the tv series, he has just been heavily defeated by the Vikings, but in the very last episode they left Wales in order to first attack Wessex and then (after agreeing with Edward the Elder) they abandoned the southern parts of what is now England, and presumably Wales too, to focus on ruling Northumbria.

    So I hope that Hywel gets to reclaim his throne on tv, as he did in real life, and that Athelstan (who is a child at the end of series 4) also gets to become a great ruler of a united England. If this redemption is done (though I don’t even know if there will be series 5 at all!) then it will become my favourite tv series!

    PS I also feel that Stannis Baratheon could have gone either way, and was saddened when he turned to the dark side as he was an honourable man whose strong self-belief could have made him a force for good in the seven kingdoms, So that is another.

  8. Ooh interesting answer. I don’t think backstories for villains can ever really excuse awful behavior, but I do find them intriguing! I like a good morally gray character.

    -Lauren

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