1. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    What constitutes a character flaw in a tragedy?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Daniel, Dec 3, 2008.

    In of of my classes we have been discussing tragedies throughout part of the semester, as well as what qualifies for a tragedy. A traditional Aristotelian tragedy must have the main character have a character flaw which leads to his downfall.

    The question I present to you is this: in your opinion, can a "good" character trait be consider a character flaw? Can sticking to your principals, following your convictions, defending the defenseless, being honest, doing what is "right" or other such traits be a flaw in one's character?
     
  2. Tartuffe James
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    Tartuffe James New Member

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    This is a big question. It depends how deep you want to go into it, really. The problem is that everyone has a different idea of what 'good' and 'bad' actually pertain to. My personal conception of what is right and what is wrong differs greatly from what, say a religious fundamentalist, believes it to be. But both of us genuinely believe that our way is right, and neither of us have any more proof that our own values are the correct ones to follow. Therefore, a fundamentalist who sticks to their principles and so does what is 'right' will be seen as a character flaw in my eyes but a work of heroism in others, and vice-versa. So yeah, those traits can easily be perceived as flaws.

    If you want to look at it more generally by saying that 'good' pertains to loving each other irrespective of race, colour, religion, etc... then you can still find the flaws. Someone who is as resolute as to carry out their own conceptions of what would make a better world, will, invariably, be one who is far too monomaniacal to recognise their own hypocrisy. Someone who breaks a law to preserve another can be seen this way. So it's up to the individual to determine how far they are prepared to go before they themselves become what they are fighting against. And this can't always be achieved with one who is fundamentally 'good' or fundamentally 'bad', as either way can be seen as too rigid a stance to take - and any rigid stance inevitably leads to intolerance.
     
  3. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I know I've gotten a lot of heartache out of life from being honest, doing what's right, following my convictions, etc.

    I tend to be trusting and to believe in people's word. Well...I used to. I thought those were good qualities, but life has been teaching me that most people consider these to be flaws and the sign of a first-rate sap.

    So yes, things that are normally considered qualities or good traits can definitely be considered flaws, if they impede a character's progress or lead to trouble in the plot. (My MC, too, tends to believe in the good in people a little too much, and although IMO this is a good quality in theory, in practice it's very flawed--some people really aren't deserving of trust or second chances.)

    Good traits can also become flawed when the character becomes overzealous about them. Defending the helpless is one thing. Killing anybody who gets in your way in order to do it is another thing entirely.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Certainly. A slavish devotion to honesty could be ultimately be hurtful, for example. Secrets are not always detrimental, and some appraisals can be defeating. If you express a belief that someone has no talent in a particular direction, you may create a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereas if you expressed a faith in that person you don't actually feel, they might surprise you.

    I would say that just about any virtue you could name has an edge that can slice in a destructive direction.
     
  5. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    Yeah, it's all relative to the context. The honesty and integrity of one can be seen as a flaw in the eyes of a schemer, or a jealous or envious streak in another can open the door to all kinds of tragic or murderous situations.
     
  6. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I gotta go to class, so I'll make this quick (longer response later on, I hope).

    I don't consider sticking to your principals a tragic flaw. If the character dies doing what he/she belives in, it's not tragedy. Of all the tragedies I look at, the character either (a) dies before reaching his goal or (b) finds that his goal isn't what he thought it was and dies miserably, despite reaching it.

    Dying in the defense of the weak is what heroes do, IMO. I'm thinking of Don Quixote for some reason; he never reached his goal (whatever it was) but he certainly didn't end tragically.
     
  7. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    What? Of course he did! He died sane! He was certainly much happier as Don Quixote than as Alonso :/.
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Sure why not.

    Say Jim wants to save his daughter from drug use and from hanging out with the wrong crowd. He loves her so much. Eventually he goes over board and locks her in the house over the summer. Trying to save his daughter leads to his downfall. He ends up in jail because the neighbor found out he locked his daughter in the house.

    I think any good quality can become obsessive and can be someone's downfall.
     

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