I’m currently reading War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk. The death of Warren Henry was probably the best I’ve read. The author began to present the character more and more during the Japanese escalation in the pacific. Then, the author just had him die routinely as a dive-bomber when hit by anti-aircraft fire attacking a ship.
I really can’t think of a better moment where I read along with the story of (to then) a supporting character while the author presented plain facts. Then, while I’m following along and sure the character would make it through and return to his supporting character role, the author described his death
Somehow, the author’s depiction really captured the matter-of-fact reality that people died during WWII battles.
Anyone else have examples of character death where you just followed along, then were left raw afterward?
Joe Ben’s death in Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes a Great Notion”
Trapped under a half-sunken log in the bay, tide rising inexorably, Joe Ben, the cheerful little extrovert who manages to be deeply religious without being stuffy or judgemental is alternately praying and joking while cousin Hank holds his head above the rising water. As the tide reaches its highest point and washes over his head, Hand is desperately trying to give him air by mouth-to-mouth but the water finally wins. Only moments after Hank realizes Joby is dead, the tide turns and starts to receed. If they could only have held on a few moments longer…
Anyway, one of the best most poignant and engrossing death scenes I know of.
This seems like a massive spoiler thread, but my example isn’t a highly read series or anything.
Spoilers inc: Warning for those who haven’t read all of the Robin Hobb “Farseer” series, or at least not through the first few books.
The series involves partnerships with animals that utilize a certain sharing of minds. The human is exhausted and feels close to death, and his wolf is drawing him out in his dreams to go run through the forests and hunt. The human is tired, even in his dreams, and the wolf is exuberant and running freely, exhorting about how he always has to go do everything first. The human wakes up to recognize that his wolf died by his side, in their sleep.
Just the way it was written, I was all the way through it and past before I really understood the wolf had died, and wasn’t just off on a run. It was very well done.
If you haven’t read George R.R. Martin there is no one more brutal with his characters. No one is safe. So for the OP I’d say Ned Stark. Totally surprised me. Had to go back and read it again and again to realize I read it correctly. Devestating. The Red Wedding got me too.
After that I would say Boromir. I was very young and I hadn’t read too many books by then and the death of a major character surprised me.
No, but something almost equivalent happened in a movie, which I’ll put in spoilers since this thread isn’t about movies: [spoiler]We Were Soldiers. They show an NVA conscript hiding behind a tree, reminiscing about his life before the war. He is resting behind the tree, gathering up courage to assault the American lines. When he finally does, the camera follows him as he charges through the thick brush with fixed bayonet toward the American lines…
then the camera switches viewpoints back to the Americans, who are embroiled in a firefight. The NVA soldier we’d been following for the past couple minutes emerges charging from the brush and is shot with a pistol during the American’s own desperate firefight, and from the point of view of the Americans he is just a faceless scrub who only occupied a second or so of their time. ETA and understandably so since they were very much otherwise preoccupied at the time.[/spoiler]
Well if it doesn’t have to be human, the hunting scene from Lord of the Flies when the boys run down and stab the pig to death.
Golding used a great deal of sexual imagery in that passage which creates a warped sense of disconnect It’s the type of unsettling passage that you have to stop reading for a second afterwards to reset the neurons.
I agree about GRRM. Touching is the opposite of what he does. He is so matter of fact about important deaths that it is totally shocking. Few authors would have the courage to do it without a big build up. And it fits with the brutality of the world.