Monday, July 27, 2009

Villain Archetype: The Devil

You’ve read about him in the Bible. Seen him on a tarot card. And perhaps wrestled with the temptation he represents on a more personal level. But when we talk about the Devil Archetype we’re speaking about fiction, not a real entity.
The devil is insidious, charming, alluring, and without conscience.

As in Stephen King’s Needful Things, Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow) moves to the small town of Castle Rock and opens a store called Needful Things.

Leland promises his customers the one thing they’ve always coveted, their fondest heart’s desire. But they must do something in return for him, something that may cost them part of their humanity. And in the end, the entire town erupts into violence that nearly destroys it. The people learn the price they’ve paid is too dear for what Leland has promised them.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, was written in 1980 by Oscar Wilde. The book has been made into many movies over the course of the years. But the theme of both the book and the movies remains the same. Evil deeds scar the soul.

When he sees a painting of himself, Dorian (Ethan Erickson in the 2001 version) is so enamored with his own image that he makes a pact with the Devil (Malcolm McDowell) so he will remain forever young and handsome. Tempted by the fame and fortune his looks offer him, he begins a journey of debauchery that continues for years. And with each sin the portrait takes on the lines and scars of his soul.

In the end Dorian destroys himself because he can no longer live with what he has become.

The Devil offers you success, wealth, and tries to charm you into following in his footsteps. In the movie Wall Street, Michael Douglas plays business tycoon Gordon Gekko.

He seduces Bud Fox (Martin Sheen) into giving him inside information about a small airline. Gordon then shares the wealth through several of his other deals and seduces Bud further and further into his financial net, with money, connections, and an old girlfriend. But Bud runs right up on the one thing he can’t live with—his father losing his job because of what he’s done. He uses his inside information to rectify the damage and ends up losing his career and his freedom.

In The Devil Wears Prada Written by Lauren Weisberger, Andy Sachs is a new journalism graduate who lands what a new writer would think was a dream job, the only hitch is her boss is The Devil.

Andy endures humiliation, scorn, and condescension from her boss and her co-workers, but she sticks with the job because she’s been told it will give her a leg up to the kind of writing job she really wants. She neglects her friends and her boyfriend, she changes her outward appearance, and in the end compromises her moral standards, just to please her boss. In the process, she learns that she doesn’t like the person she’s become and walks away earning The Devil’s admiration and the job she wanted in the first place.

In The Devil’s Advocate, Attorney Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) draws the interest of a leading Manhattan law firm for his win at all cost courtside manner. When he’s offered a job by the firm, he leaves Florida and heads to the Big Apple. His wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron) immediately comes under supernatural attack from the head man’s minion.

While Kevin is challenged by the cases his boss John Milton (Al Pacino) gives him, his ego is stroked and he’s cheered on and told how good he is at winning until that drive blinds him to his wife’s desperation and the tentative hold she has on her sanity. After Kevin loses his wife, his blinders are suddenly lifted. He realizes that he’s set a murderer free and is eaten up with guilt over his wife’s death. And SURPRISE!! Daddy dearest is none other than John Milton aka. Old Scratch himself. To keep from embracing Dad’s ways and breeding the next generation, Kevin chooses to end his contract and his life. But Dad being The Devil, he gets a do over to try the whole thing over again.

Do you sense a theme in the popular fiction that depicts The Devil? In every story the person seduced into following the path El Diablo has set for them, ends up giving up everything they’ve gained with their association to break the ties that bind them to him.

In doing so, they all perpetuate the belief that Good triumphs over Evil.

Can you think of any movies or books in which The Devil archetype plays a part? I’d be interested in discussing them.

Write on,
Teresa Reasor


Mary Ricksen said...

Do you remember or have you heard of The Devil and Daniel Webster. I'm surely dating myself.
But it was great.

Keena Kincaid said...

I remember that short story, Mary. I think that it may serve as the basis of a lot of devil may care stories. Once, as an work exercise, we SWOTted hell (That's a strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats) as if we were going to have a rebranding campaign. The exercise was a fun way to teach us newbies how to do market analysis. It also sparked several great story ideas for me, too.

Teresa Reasor said...

Mary and Keena:
Thanks for joining me. And yes I remember the story of The Devil and Daniel Webster. I'm still brainstorming to come up with some of the less abvious DEVILS in fiction.
Blatty's Exorcist of course immediately comes to everyone's mind, but what about human devils?
Wish I could think of a few.

jj Keller said...

The devil works in mysterious ways. I've used him in Dark Shadows and he'll appear stronger in the sequel, Dark Justice. Beelzebub makes a fine villan, don't you think?

Good blog, Teresa!

Teresa Reasor said...

It's great to hear from you. And yes he does make a great villain. One we can all pull against with our characters.


Kathy said...

So cool you asked about this. I just finished Carla Neggers The Angel and there was a man in it that was killed at the beginning and throughout the book mention was made of his study of the devil and the book allowed the reader to wonder if it was the devil doing the murders or not. I won't spoil the end because I recommend the book if you haven't read it. Just struk how odd you asked and blogged about this as I had just finished that book.

Teresa Reasor said...

I've read several of her books, but not this one. I'll have to check it out.
Thanks for commenting on the blog. I'm thrilled you took the time.
Write on,
Teresa r.

Kathye Quick said...

As you said, the devil takes many forms, and if we just look around our life, we can see him.

My favorite movie was the Devils Advocate with Keanu Reeves. The ending is so provactive that it plays numerous ways depending on your beleif system.

Great post - makes you think!

Teresa Reasor said...

I started reading paranormals in my teenage years. And at that time, they had lots of books that featured the DEVIL as the bad guy. Some were so scary I sometimes didn't want to be home alone after I'd read them.
Wonder what happened to all that.
I'm going to drag some of them off the shelves, I probably still have them and read them again. See if I can figure out how to use that to write a horror novel.
I'm glad my blogg got you to thinking.

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