The topic of revenge within literature, gaming, movies and tv shows is something that has always interested me. It’s pretty intriguing to see how far protagonists will go to exact revenge even if that leads them towards a path of destruction not only for the villain but also for the bystanders around them. Sometimes protagonists will even lose all morality as they are blinded by revenge without realising the consequences.
The main reason I enjoy these types of stories is because there’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing a character rise above the wrongs they were put through. Many of these novels focus on an emphasis in justice and the bad guys getting what they deserve. Revenge to a certain extent is part of human nature so it’s only natural to lash out at someone who’s wronged you.
Moreover, most characters also tend to haggle with their own morality i.e. yes revenge would be great but is this the only way? Do I have to do this? That inner battle makes it even more intriguing because revenge can be a bumpy road for ones morality. One of my favourite quotes with regards to revenge is “Before you embark on a journey of Revenge, Dig two graves” by Confucius. Essentially what this means is that within an individual’s journey of revenge they doom themselves. Their future essentially hangs in the balance as their actions determine the path intended for them. You’re not only dooming yourself but also the person you’re wanting to lash out on.
In the case of literature, Revenge is a theme which has been explored before we were even born. You can go as back as 1844 to when The Count Of Monte Cristo By Alexandre Dumas was first published. The novel focuses on the protagonist Edmond Dantès who is wrongly accused of treason by his rival Fernand Mondego. While in prison he is inspired by Abbé Faria to not only escape but he guides him towards a treasure. Thus, he purchases the island of Monte Cristo and becomes the mysterious “Count of Monte Cristo” and uses his new found fortune to exact revenge. In addition to this, you have The Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff. This is a series that I’ve really enjoyed as it’s at times very raw and brutal. The story focuses on the character of Mia Corvere whose father is executed for treason during a failed coup. During her escape she is saved by a former Assassin who tells her to join “The Red Church”. They are a deadly assortment of assassins who Mia intends to learn from in order to exact her revenge. Throughout the novel she witnesses the death of her father, brother and her mother which only increase her blood lust for revenge. However, this in turn does lead to others unwillingly getting involved in her quest for revenge.
The great thing about revenge stories is that 9/10 we learn the motivations of the characters to exact revenge. It would be pretty weird not knowing why exactly a character is killing all of their enemies on site without any explanation. I’d personally think they’re a loony. Thus, making their motivations for revenge an integral part of the narration is key.
Moreover, revenge stories can and will impact the other characters in the story. For example in Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff which is the the second book in the Nevernight chronicles, Mia uses other characters in the novel for her own gain. She manipulates and lies to them in order to achieve her end goal. Some would say she’s selfish I would say that everyone is in it for themselves and good on her lol
Essentially revenge can be costly for both villain and protagonist. The protagonists actions obviously leads to the villain retaliating and vice versa. Thus, revenge stories allows you experience it from both sides.
So what are some of your favourite novels that focus on the theme of revenge? What makes a good revenge story for you?