I’m going to very cautiously poke my head into the realm of news reporting (or rather re-reporting) today, but don’t worry, I’m not getting political. A friend posted this link on Facebook recently, most likely while doing a little Yosemite Sam-style gun jig.
It got me thinking about the sense of symmetry that is required for a narrative to feel both complete and satisfying.
This is often referred to in terms of balance; any transgressions committed by or upon the protagonist at the beginning of the story must be offset by some equally weighty punishment. However, I think our sense of balance is askew.
If we were to somehow be able to look at every story ever told and weigh the crimes and punishments of the antagonists, we would probably find a great number of them involve bad guys who commit murder and die in the end, which we might consider a “balanced” dramatic arc. We would also find quite a few stories in which either a) the bad guy gets away with murder, or b) the bad guy commits some lesser offense, but still dies in the end; my guess is we would find many more of the latter.
There is a very primal part of us that thinks even an eye for an eye is too lenient; it salivates at the phrase “justifiable homicide,” secretly longing to be victimized just enough to be able to kill someone for it, and it is on display in our lineage of vanquished villains, and in bloggers gloating over what is essentially the meting out of a death sentence for burglary.