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The most obvious antagonist in Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s novel for young readers titled The Egypt Game is the person who attacks April (nearly strangling her) and who actually succeeds in killing another neighborhood girl. The identity of the killer is not revealed until close to the end of the novel, but surely this person qualifies as the most dangerous antagonist.
Ultimately the killer is revealed to be a cousin of Mr. Schmitt, who owns a local store. The cousin works in the store, and, when we first meet him, he is described as a “stocky redheaded young man with blotchy freckles” (p. 129). He never assists customers.
After the man’s criminal activities are discovered, the narrator reports that there
wasn’t going to be a real trial because the man was very sick mentally and was to be sent to a hospital for the criminally insane. . . . The police hadn’t found out about him before because Mr. Schmitt had always given him an alibi. (p. 193)
Mr. Schmitt’s attempts to protect his cousin from the law may make Mr. Schmitt himself another antagonist in the novel (certainly he is usually described in unattractive terms). One might even try to make the case that Mr. Schmitt is the one who is ultimately responsible for his cousin’s crimes, since the cousin himself is insane, whereas Mr. Schmitt is not. In fact, later in the book one character even says, “I’ll bet he had a notion that his cousin was the murderer but he didn’t want to believe it” (p. 199). There is even speculation that this is why Mr. Schmitt tried to blame the murder on the Professor, another member of the neighborhood. If this is true (and Snyder leaves the matter ambiguous), then Schmitt is indeed a blameworthy person and may be even more of a real antagonist, ironically, than the actual killer. Still, it is the cousin who actually commits the crimes.
In some respects, Snyder's novel resembles Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird: a mysterious character (the Professor) observes children play (thus resembling Boo Radley in Lee's novel); another character (the red-headed cousin) is mentally challenged (like Boo Radley); and a mysterious assailant is on the loose and is attacking children (as at the end of Harper's novel). Of course, no child in Harper's novel actually dies, and the mentally challenged character in Harper's novel is much more fully developed. Likewise, the person who proves to be the true criminal in Harper's novel is also much more fully described and characterized.
[2009 Antheneum edition]
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