To Kill Them Off or to Not Kill Them Off?

Another week has passed and things are starting to look up. The car seems to be fixed, vacation is in 3 weeks, and I might have a job prospect! Let’s hope everything works out…

This week I’m here to talk about killing off characters in some of your favorite novels.

I know, I know. Touchy subject. But I was catching up on everybody’s favorite HBO series–Game of Thrones, season 6–and also finishing up the Miss Peregrine series, and I noticed a very stark difference between the two: while Martin kills off main characters left and right, Riggs plays it relatively safe. Now, you may be thinking, Well Alyssa, GoT is an adult fantasy series while Miss Peregrine is a YA fantasy series — big difference there. And you’re right, GoT is violent, sexual, and not for the light-hearted. MP, on the other hand, targets kids and teens. And besides, who wants their favorite characters to perish in the middle of the series? NO ONE. That would be crazy. But I’ve got a couple opinions on the matter that I’d like to share.

**Please note: the following discussion will reveal spoilers about the following series: Game of ThronesMiss Peregrine’s Peculiar ChildrenHarry Potter, and Divergent.

In GoT, people drop like flies. Now, I haven’t yet read the book series, but I am finally caught up on the TV series, so when I mention GoT, I mean the show. Anyway, if you’re someone who has a heart, Hodor’s death probably ripped it out and now you don’t have one. And let’s not forget poor little Shireen Baratheon, a little girl who we have to watch get burned alive at the stake, courtesy of her asshole of a father.

I could go on and on, but I won’t, because it’s just too painful. I hate watching these people die. They’re not real, but it hurts. Well, Joffrey’s death didn’t hurt, but you get the gist. I don’t want them to die, yet at the same time, I’m glad George R.R. Martin doesn’t shy away from it. You may think I’m nuts, but hear me out: do you want to be shocked when you read/watch something? Do you want to be on the edge of your seat in suspense? Do you want to feel something? I know I do, and with that comes character deaths. It keeps the story suspenseful, thrilling, interesting. It’s not safe. No one is safe, and there’s a certain kind of excitement to that, that keeps the reader/viewer coming back for more, even when it hurts. I really do appreciate Martin for what he does.

Ransom Riggs, on the other hand, plays it safe. In Miss Peregrine, you lose a few minor characters here and there, which is normal, but you also lose one of the main characters: Fiona. She dies while the children are away saving the world and is only briefly mentioned a couple more times throughout the last book. I didn’t really feel too sad about her, though, because I honest-to-god thought Riggs was going to bring her back. The whole time, I kept expecting Fiona to show up like, “Hey guys! The trees cushioned my fall. I’m okay. All is well” … and they lived happily ever after. She really did die, though, and yet I still wasn’t that sad. I didn’t have much of an emotional connection to the series at all, and I certainly wasn’t in much suspense throughout it, either. I think Riggs played it too safe for my tastes. I did enjoy the series, and I understand Riggs had a plan that didn’t match up with my expectations, and that’s okay. I don’t want people to assume that’s because of the YA genre, though. And here’s why.

The Harry Potter series is technically considered children’s literature (or even YA lit). Over the course of 7 books, Harry ages from 11 to 18 years old, from child to young adult. I know kids as young as 8 years old who have read the Harry Potter series and, like everyone else, cherishes it. You think HP is all about rainbows and butterflies? It’s not. HP is a lot of things–a lot of good things–but it’s not a safe little story like MP. In fact, many main characters die in HP, perhaps most notably Fred Weasley. All the deaths are devastating, just as they are in GoT, and these are books read by children! These books are chocked full of important life lessons, and J.K. Rowling made sure to include death as one of those learning experiences. Everyone dies — many, too soon. It’s important to introduce death in children’s literature at some point because it’s a way to ease a child’s mind into the fact of it. Literature is a safe, fictional space where children can learn about real life problems and experiences. This is critical, actually, and a topic of great interest to me as a student of English literature. But I won’t keep raving about that. Let’s get back on topic.

Main characters die in many, many, many YA and children’s books. What about the Divergent series? They took it a step further and actually killed the main character, Tris. I kept expecting her to come back alive. But she didn’t. And it was tragic and awful and sad, but it was also shocking, suspenseful, and thrilling. And that’s what makes a good story. You don’t have to kill a character to make a story interesting — that’s not what I’m saying. I’m just saying there’s a reason authors do it. Trust me, they don’t get off on killing the Fred Weasley’s and Tris Prior’s of the literary world. Sometimes, it’s just a necessary element to the story’s central plot or theme. And that’s okay. It hurts–a lot–but there’s a purpose to it.

Bridge to Terrabithia, anyone?

Yeah, no, I’m not even going to go there… I will never be okay with that…

So this was a really long-winded discussion about character deaths and what I think about them. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, it really sucks when writers kill off their characters, but it’s usually for some sort of purpose, and that’s okay. I mean, it’s not okay, but it’s not not okay.

If you agree or disagree, feel free to comment — let me know what you think about this matter! We’ve all lost beloved characters to our favorite author’s vicious pen. But we haven’t stopped reading, have we?

o what is rightnot what is easy

5 thoughts on “To Kill Them Off or to Not Kill Them Off?

  1. I don’t agree with authors killing off characters just for the shock value but have to confess I like a little bit of unpredictability in books. There should be at least the possibility that a character could be bumped off other wise there’s no real danger.

    Also agree with your point that deaths in childrens/YA books are important as a way of introducing real life issues in a safe space

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You just HAD to mention Bridge to Terabithia, didn’t you? I WILL NEVER BE OVER THAT!!!! But you are right in saying that the deaths of some characters are important. Even if it seems premature to put it in children’s books, it’s a subject that needs to be dealt with and sometimes even at a very young age. Have you read A Monster Calls? That’s basically the whole premise and it is a book targeted at kids.
    Also, I’ve read a couple YA books where I was disappointed no one died (*cough* Firebird series *cough*) and it wasn’t because I WANTED anyone to die, but it would have fit the story/circumstances better. Did that make any sense?


    1. I know, I know!! I don’t think anyone will ever be over that one…
      I have read A Monster Calls and I adore it. One of my favorite books, easily.
      And that totally made sense! I felt that way reading many books lol

      Liked by 1 person

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