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What makes a character irredeemable?

last activity 7 months ago by System

Attribution notice removed by user avatar System · 2019-12-12T21:57:43Z (7 months ago)
Source: https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/48198
License name: CC BY-SA 4.0
License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Initial revision by (deleted user) · 2019-12-08T13:02:09Z (7 months ago)
The trait that makes Dolores Umbridge, and other characters, repulsive, is **sadism**. Enjoying the suffering of others, enjoying causing pain - we find that unforgivable. A villain who hurts others due to some twisted perception of it being right and necessary - they can (theoretically) come to understand that their motivation was wrong. But for Umbridge, who simply enjoys making people suffer, to have a redemption arc - the very core of her personality, her defining trait, would have to be altered for her to even start on the path. Sadism is her defining trait, and to be "redeemed" she'd have to stop enjoying causing pain and start perceiving it as wrong. But _because_ that's the character's defining trait, if she did that she's no longer be Dolores Umbridge.

Another element at play is " **a million is a statistic**". It's very hard for us to grasp large numbers of victims. We perceive tragedy much stronger when the victim is a character we knew and came to love. We are far less inclined to forgive then. Voldemort might have killed hundreds or thousands, but it all happens off-screen, to people we've never known. Umbridge, on the other hand, tortures characters right before our eyes. (Read more about this phenomenon on [tvtropes](https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AMillionIsAStatistic)). Note that Voldemort, while not particularly reviled by readers, is never presented as "redeemable". The trope is at play in much stronger form in _Star Wars_, which @FrancineDeGroodTaylor mentions: Darth Vader kills an entire planet of unnamed people, then saves one Luke Skywalker, and he's redeemed.

Attribution notice added by user avatar System · 2019-12-08T13:02:09Z (7 months ago)
Source: https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/48198
License name: CC BY-SA 4.0
License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Imported from external source by user avatar System · 2019-09-25T20:18:01Z (9 months ago)
Original score: 36