Written by: Emma Baldwin
Why is it that, at the end of a book, the characters we find hardest to say goodbye to are often the ones that we were most skeptical of in the beginning? It seems after the first impressions these characters get quite a bit worse before they get better. Why is that? What is it that makes the reader grow fond of somewhat dislikable characters? Often, it is the aspect of redemption in the story and the transformation that causes in the character’s life. Three literary characters specifically come to mind.
Emma Woodhouse of Jane Austen’s Emma is loved by nearly everyone around her. She is known as being loyal to her father, servant-hearted to the poor, as well as intelligent, witty, and wealthy. Throughout the story, however, Emma’s character is slowly revealed, and she, though still able to put on a good face for acquaintances, becomes a frustrating, self-centered character. Emma advises her close friend to forget the man with whom her friend is in love, and she sets her friend up with a man who is wealthier and of the upper class. Around the same time, she treats the visiting Jane Fairfax rudely because she believes herself to be in love with the man who loves Jane. Emma’s bad character escalates until she disproves the misconception of her good character completely, publicly insulting an elderly and poor friend. Emma’s cruelty is rebuked by Mr. Knightley, the only character, it seems, who had seen her faults all along. Mr. Knightley confronts Emma, scolding her for openly mocking one of their friends, emphasizing the fact that she is of a lower social class than they are.
In C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund Pevensie is the second child to enter Narnia. He experienced the wonders of the wardrobe shortly after his little sister Lucy had, and he was quick to deny it as soon as he was questioned, whether because he was embarrassed, or because he wanted to antagonize Lucy. Not much later in the book, Edmund betrays his siblings and Aslan, trading information about them for the promise of Turkish delight. He enabled the White Witch to find and, by extension, eventually murder, Aslan because of his own selfish desires. Aslan later, after resurrecting, confronts Edmund for his betrayal.
Peter is one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ in the four gospels. He is loyal to Jesus and often shows it through his tendency of being loud and stubbornly speaking his mind. However, his loyalty is tested during the time of the crucifixion. Although Jesus warned Peter that Peter would deny Him three times before Jesus was crucified, Peter was in disbelief and ignored these warnings. The time came, however, and Peter quickly found himself denying Christ three times. Peter was left regretting his betrayal of His Savior for three days until Jesus rose again and provided Peter with different opportunities to repent of what he had done.
What do all these characters have in common? After the moment of their confrontations, the characters began to change. Emma was rebuked, arguably, by one of the only people that showed her genuine love. Mr. Knightley showed Emma her value by rebuking her because he made it clear that he cared enough about her to care how she treated the people around her. In rebuking Emma, Mr. Knightley showed her that she was worth redeeming. In confronting Edmund about his betrayal, Aslan showed him that he was more than a punk kid who lives only for himself. Aslan showed Edmund that he could be more and that he, the ruler of Narnia, cared enough about him to want him to become more. Peter was confronted by Jesus Christ Himself. He was warned of what he would do, disbelieved, and proceeded to do it anyway. He was confronted by The Resurrected King and was given the opportunity to prove His love for Jesus. Emma found redemption in Mr. Knightley, who promised to marry her despite how she had treated the people around her for the majority of her life. Edmund found redemption in Aslan, who loved the rebel and made him a king of Narnia even after his original betrayal. And Peter found redemption in the Prince of Peace, Who allowed Peter to see the wounds that exemplified His unbound and unending love for the man who denied Him.
Conviction, forgiveness, and redemption are defined in the character of God Himself. Redemption does not stop with forgiveness, however. The characters of these people visibly change as a result of their redemption. Emma, though her development is not shown completely in Austen’s novel, begins to treat the people around her in kindness and grace, especially who were less impressionable and fortunate than she. Edmund became one of Narnia’s kindest and bravest leaders, and he began to love the people around him, specifically his siblings, as he always should have. And Peter lived fearlessly (though rather impulsively) for Christ, and we will spend eternity with him in the New Creation, praising God as we were always meant to.