DO MAIN CHARACTERS HAVE TO DIE?
“No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” – Kurt Vonnegut
In the recently concluded NdaniTV series, Rumour Has It on YouTube, one of the main characters, Nnenna (played by Elma Mbadiwe), a brilliant young lady was murdered. At the time of her death, she had just begun a budding romantic relationship with another main character, Toju Cole, a business mogul who had allegedly murdered his ex-wives. Also, the viewers were still acclimatizing themselves with the intricacies of her character as she died at a period where she was just beginning a new career path.
Some people would argue that having her character murdered, helped shed more light on the death of Toju Cole’s previous two wives and, invariably vindicated him from the persistent social media speculations, of being an accomplice in their deaths. I however do not agree. Had Nnenna been kept alive, her relationship with Toju Cole, as time went on would have helped give the needed clarity surrounding the deaths.
On the other hand, her death helped humanise Toju Cole (Ozzy Agu) as he grieved her loss, such that we could see that at his core, he was capable of feeling, as opposed to the cold front he put up almost permanently.
This is one of the myriad examples in literature and pop culture where a main character dies off. We see how JK Rowling went on a killing spree, of beloved characters such as Dumbledore, Sirius (bless his precious heart) to mention a few in her famed Harry Potter series. Also the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who killed the Sherlock Holmes character in his books, but had to do a rewrite because his readers revolted.
This brings me to one of the major reasons why authors kill off their main characters – to advance the plot. Also, to infuse realism into their work. Art is life and life is art. In order words, art should imitate life. Therefore, if we can’t have it all rosy in reality, we shouldn’t have it all rosy in the fictional world either.
Oftentimes, people watch movies or read books to escape from all the realism this life offers, and basically feel good and be entertained. Having to face similar dreariness in movies is nothing short of cruel, especially when the death clearly serves no significant purpose in the grand scheme of things, having considered all angles to the implication of the death of course. Consequently, it portrays the writer as some woe hungry monster who seeks pleasure in shocking the readers.
I am not advocating against creating realistic art, where the readers cannot accurately predict that the protagonist for example, will not die. It in fact, keeps the readers intrigued. Rather, I am advocating against unnecessary deaths of characters that do not particularly move the plot forward or make it richer, but only serves to enrage the viewers or readers as the case may be.