Perhaps the most famous literary take on this idea is David Copperfield. He is the narrator of the book but he wonders whether he will turn out to be the “hero” of his own life, or will it be Steerforth.
The movie ** Laura** is actually an investigation into her supposed murder. A faceless corpse is discovered and presumed by everyone, including the police to be her. A great movie, but I always wondered didn’t anybody ever fingerprint the corpse.
All the President’s Men is not about any of them but rather about the reporters investigating them.
All the King’d Men is about the King, Huey Long, and not his men at all.
Dracula, both the Bela Lugosi movie and Stoker’s novel, are not (or at best only tangentially) about Dracula. The real story revolves around the vampire hunters and those whose lives are destroyed by the vampire.
I’m sure there are a lot more examples. These are the one’s that occur to me at the moment.
Well, I would say that Douglas Adams’ “Dirk Gently’s holistic detective agency” wasn’t really about Dirk. (Technically the agency is the actual title, but I think we can be flexible enough to not worry about that, since Dirk’s whole name appears in the title and is the commonly given short-name of the book.)
Certainly Dirk serves as a major character in the book, and he’s the sleuth who, after a fashion, solves the mystery, but he isn’t more important than some of the other characters, and we never get shown, directly, what he’s thinking, as is true of Richard, and Gordon, and even the Monk. Personally, I’d say that Richard is the main protagonist of the book, but maybe that’s just because I identify with him so strongly.
Any counter-points out there?? (Oddly enough, in the one and a half sequels Dirk really comes into his own as a main character.)
It’s going to become an extremely long and easily-added-to list if we say that DGHDA counts. After all Dirk appears in or is mentioned in pretty much every scene in that book from the first to the last. He interacts with every single character as far as i recall and his character (not just his existence) is solely responsible for moving the plot along and his character evolves as much as any other character. We know approximately as much about Dirk’s actions and intentions within the story as we know about the other characters.
That differs form the other examples where the title character doesn’t even appear in numerous key scenes or is even dead or missing when the scenes occur. The deliberate actions of those characters have little effect on the course of much of the story. Andof ocurse we don’t actually get to know as much about most of those characters, even Caesar, as we do about the real hero.
If we include DGHDA then we need to include almost every story that isn’t essentially a one-person ‘biography’ like “Forrest Gump”. So throw in all Sherlock Holmes (they primarily focus on Waston and the ‘victims’), throw in Return of the King (we never know Aragorn’s thoughts either and he is certainly secondary to Frodo and even Gandalf). Add even throw in “Return of the Jedi”.
While Dirk and Aragorn and Luke may not be “the” main protagonists of their stories they are certainly major characters in the unfolding story. There’s going to be some argument about when a characeter ceases to be major of course, but I think that any character that appears in or is directly instrumental in setting up (or failing to prevent) every major scene in a story is major. And any charcter that gets apporoximately equal “screen time” as the other also should count IMO.
In that respect we could also add The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe where the children are obviously the “heroes” and the lion and witch don’t have much showing . Also Moby Dick since the whale really serves only as foil/goal, not a character per se.
Similarly, in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Priscilla isn’t a charater; she’s a vehicle.
Raising Arizona – Arizona is the McGuffin, not the main character.
Eating Raoul – Raoul is eaten quite early on; it’s really about the Blands.
Glengarry Glen Ross – There is no one in the movie by that name. It comes from various names for housing developments (Glengarry Acres, Glen Ross Farms) used in the play, but there is no “Glengarry Glen Ross” ever mentioned.
Howards End – There is no Howard. It’s the name of a piece of property.