Alright, lovelies, time for round two!
I’ve now read the second third of Lynn Coady’s “The Antagonist”. If you didn’t tune into the previous blog post, then here’s a rundown:
Gordon ‘Rank’ Rankin made way too many mistakes in his adolescent years than is considered acceptable. His friend, Adam, decided to write a book and write in Rank as the antagonist… I’ll let Rank explain the outcome of that.
“Already this feels like a cliché, which is the fault of none other than Adam. It wouldn’t feel that way if you didn’t exist. It wouldn’t be a part of someone else’s fairy tale, it would just be my own nameless stench, hanging over me. The biggest pisser? The fact that the cliché of me was all you really took, you boiled an entire life, an entire human being, Adam, down into his most basic, boneheaded elements. Good mom plus bad dad hinting at the predictable Oedipal (oh give me a fucking break) background of — voilà — Danger Man! One seriously messed up dude. Not very creative of you is what I’m saying.”
But anyway, let’s jump right in!
I’ve always been fascinated with how archetypal theory pushes its way into the narrative. I learned about ‘The Hero’s Journey‘ when I was in 10th grade, and it’s always intrigued me how the most brilliant stories can be so different, yet so similar just because they follow this simple formula. The Antagonist is no exception, it’s just more clever in how it masks it. In example:
The Hero – Gordon Rankin Jr. He’s the protagonist and the one who our sympathies lean toward as the reader. He also acts as a tour guide throughout the story he tells.
The Mentor – Surprisingly, it isn’t really his mother or his father. Owen Findlay is Rank’s hockey coach and eventually his therapist in a Juvenile Detention Centre after the kid nearly kills Mick Croft. Rank’s words: “It is safe to say that you and I would never have met in the hallowed halls of academe if the gods had presented me with any coach in the world who was not Owen Findlay.” (Coady 116)
The Ally – There are multiple. These people are Rank’s friends throughout university: Kyle, Wade, and Adam. They live in a rented frathouse together known as “The Temple”, a place where everyone is expected to get along and act politely to each other regardless of your social standing or clique. Adam is Rank’s best friend of the three, though, and frequently talks to him man-to-man to make sure he tones back his temper or just listens to him when he’s got issues.
“… But Rank is throwing caution to the wind on this day, in celebration and acknowledgment of his newfound status of Completely Screwed. But — It’s hilarious. He doesn’t feel so bad. It’s clear now why his first instinct was to dig up Adam and tell the whole story to him before anybody else. He must’ve known that only Adam would react this way — only Adam would applaud.” (Lynn Coady 172)
Though this doesn’t make up for the fact that Adam continuously makes cracked skull jokes even though he’s aware of Rank’s trauma after the incident.
The Herald – Would be Mick Croft. He’s such a piece of utter garbage, but for some reason, I loved the couple chapters we got to spend with him. His incident of insulting Gord enough to lead to a tussle with Rank in the parking lot and then getting his skull cracked open on the pavement is what begins the mess of trauma in Rank’s life, and is continually mentioned throughout the story beyond.
The Trickster – Kyle and Wade. They aren’t in the book that often unless some light-hearted comedy is needed. They’re both goofy, popular stoners who just like to have fun and kiss girls. Most of the dialogue they have is humorous or banter.
Shapeshifter – Definitely Adam Grix. Adam was Rank’s best friend all throughout university until the big ‘incident’ occurred. He’s portrayed as very logical and maybe a bit pretentious sometimes, but he also looks out for Rank as often as he can. This changes when he basically betrays him and smears his name in the book he wrote; writing down all the things that Rank considered private to be read by the public.
“You know all of this, or I thought you did. I gave it to you, these intermittent chunks, I pulled off bloody hank of flesh after bloody hank and just handed them over and you were so coy, you averted your eyes and pretended to be embarrassed like the rest of them when really you were squirreling the hanks away and secretly stitching them together and building Frankenstein’s monster.”
The Shadow – If I was being lazier, I would just classify Rank’s father, Gord, as the Shadow and be done with it. Rank is constantly struggling against his father’s toxic masculinity and his emotionally abusive tendencies, but I believe the real Shadow is Rank’s guilt. Throughout the novel, he’s constantly battling with his self-loathing after nearly killing Mick Croft. He thinks about it constantly, unable to move on from the fact that he did that and it happened. I certainly hope he can learn to make peace with himself by the end of the novel.
But moving on, the Hero’s Journey doesn’t stop there! There’s an entire outline for how the plots usually go! Though I haven’t reached the end of the book yet, so I don’t have too much to go on. But from what I can tell:
The Ordinary World: Rank lives in his small town with a part-time job at his father’s ice cream shop, Icy Dream. Though he doesn’t have the best home life, his mother is alive and well and he has decent grades and a decent life.
The Call To Adventure: That makes it sound a lot more triumphant and joyous than it actually is. In reality, the call to adventure (or the event that gets the story going) is when Rank has a fight with local punk and drug dealer Mick Croft in the parking lot of Icy Dream at the request of his father. It ends with one punch and Mick ends up with brain damage.
Meeting with the Mentor: Rank meets Owen Findlay, a hockey coach with a strict non-violence policy on the rink. He plays the role of the father figure where Gord sort of fails and also acts as a therapist for him when he’s in a Juvie center after pleading guilty to assault on Mick Croft. Owen helps teach him to quell his temper and even helps him get a scholarship for his hockey skills.
Crossing the Threshold: Rank crossing over from Highschool to University.
Tests, Allies, and Enemies: Rank makes friends with Adam, Kyle, and Wade. Three somewhat pretentious stoners who are absolutely nothing like him. Nonetheless, they’re all very good friends. Adam is especially a big help when Rank decides to quit hockey and forfeit his scholarship after his coach told him to either crack the skulls of the enemy team or walk away from the team entirely.
Approach: The tension begins to rise within the group of friends as Rank becomes a big more estranged and takes a job as a bouncer (and later a shady deliveryman) at a seedy bar called Goldfinger’s. It is at this point that it becomes clear that the frequently referenced ‘incident’ is going to happen soon, and it’s not going to be pretty.
Though I haven’t reached the climax of the book, from the journey I can expect this; I think someone is going to either die or come very close to it. He’s going to be torn apart so that he can eventually stitch himself back up and fix what he’s done. Rank is going to flee from the situation and then realize everything that needs fixing. From there I think that he’ll start a new life from there and end up doing something he likes instead of trying to please everyone.
Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
This is Katie, signing off.