How does H. A. Guerber use the literary element of characterization to develop the tyrant Dionysius' character in "Damon and Pythias?"
Throughout "Damon and Pythias," Guerber uses the literary element of characterization to paint Dionysius' development from a cruel tyrant into a redeemed leader. Dionysius' growth as a character is rooted in his interactions with Damon and Pythias. In the beginning of the story, Dionysius sentences Pythias to death because of his egoism and paranoia. He allows Pythias to return home to settle his affairs as long as he leaves Damon in his place, but the tyrant does not believe that his original prisoner will return.
As the story progresses, Dionysius comes to admire and even envy Damon's devotion to his friend. Through their interactions, it becomes clear that Dionysius is lonely and disillusioned due to his social standing. This revelation makes him a more sympathetic character and hints at the personal growth he exhibits in the final act.
At the end of the story, when Damon is moments away from being executed in Pythias' place, Dionysius is shocked to realize that Pythias honored his word and returned to face execution. Up to this point, Dionysius has projected his own moral shortcomings and selfishness on Pythias, assuming that he will abandon his friend in his own self-interest. Dionysius is so moved by the loyalty and bond shared by Pythias and Damon that he has a change of heart and pardons them both, marking his final character transformation. In Guerber's version of this classic tale, Dionysius is moved by the power and depth of their friendship and it changes his entire outlook as a leader.
Throughout "Damon and Pythias," Guerber gradually develops Dionysius as a character. He begins the story as its primary antagonist and the narrative ends with his transformation into a man who is capable of mercy and humility.