In The Underground Man, is Fritz Snow a victim, an antagonist, a sidekick, or none of these things?

In The Underground Man, Fritz Snow is more of a victim than an antagonist. Hardly a sidekick given his submissive relationship to a domineering and murderous mother, he can be considered an antagonist only in the sense that he is involved in some way with murder. He is mostly, however, a pitiable, manipulated victim acting at the direction of the most authoritative figure in his life, his mother.

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In Ross MacDonald’s novel The Underground Man, Frederick “Fritz” Snow is a victim, mainly of his controlling, manipulative mother. The story follows protagonist Lew Archer as he attempts to solve a murder and searches for a missing child, six-year-old Ronny, amid the fires destroying entire communities and the scheming of myriad characters. While Archer is solving the murder mystery at the heart of the novel, it becomes increasingly clear that Fritz is a troubled individual completely dominated by his mother. Fritz’s condition is apparent in the scene in which Archer questions him about the titular "underground man," Stanley Broadhurst, whose buried corpse provides the story’s main plot (in addition to the search for Ronny). In this scene, Fritz is a pathetic figure, his mother hovering over him, correcting every mistake (including Fritz’s grammar), and admonishing him for shaking his head too violently:

“Don’t, Fritz. You’ll do yourself an injury.”

In the novel’s closing passages, Archer, having solved the mystery and located the missing child, watches as Fritz and his mother are driven away in the backseat of a police cruiser. The submissive relationship of Fritz to his mother, who is most responsible for the murders, is once again visible. Fritz is an antagonist in the sense that he could be considered an accessory to murder; he is a victim in that his actions are completely dictated by a malicious parent.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 17, 2021
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