Student Question

How does the dynamic protagonist in a story of your choice, such as Faulkner's "Barn Burning," evolve over the course of the narrative?

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A dynamic protagonist can be defined as a main character in a story who undergoes a significant change over the course of the story. Below are some examples of stories which feature dynamic protagonists.

One great example of a story with a dynamic protagonist is "Lamb to the Slaughter," a short story by Roald Dahl. The central character is a housewife named Mary. She is a quiet, unassuming woman who loves her husband very much—so much so, in fact, that "she love(s) to luxuriate in the presence of (the) man," even when he slams doors, speaks curtly to her, or sits in moody, teeth-clenching silence across the room from her. Mary also happens to be pregnant, and she seems to be looking forward to sharing the news with her husband. However, her husband has other ideas: namely, the idea of leaving her. Mary understandably takes exception to this idea and replies by striking her husband across the head with a frozen leg of lamb. The husband falls to the floor, dead. The rest of the story is about how Mary tries to get away with the murder, and the quiet, unassuming housewife becomes a cold, calculating and cunning murderess.

Another good option is "The Hungry Stones" by Rabindranath Tagore. This is a rather odd story focused on a character, Srijut, who begins the story as a hardworking collector of cotton duties but, during the course of the story, becomes rather mad. He stays in a house which begins to "exert a weird fascination upon (him)" and was "like a living organism." The house is haunted by mad eunuchs and seductive damsels and maidens, and Srijut is drawn deeper and deeper into the house's world of vivid waking dreams and illusions, until he too, toward the end of the story, is teetering on the brink of madness. This is the story, then, of a man who undergoes a dynamic change from sanity to something close to madness.

A third option to consider is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is a much longer story than the previous two options, but there are not many characters who better exemplify the dynamic protagonist than Scout Finch. At the beginning of the novel, Scout is an intelligent, good-natured five-year-old girl, but she still has many prejudices which she has absorbed, as children often do, from the society she has grown up in. The novel could be classed as a bildungsroman, which is a type of story in which a protagonist matures over the course of the story, usually intellectually or/and morally. Scout matures both morally and intellectually as she learns, largely from her father, Atticus, to be less judgmental of people and to question prejudices which others adopt unthinkingly.

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