Finding Kindness in Literature

In a world captivated by antiheroes and morally complex figures, one might wonder: Where can I find kindness in literature? While traits like courage, intelligence, and resilience often take the spotlight, kindness seems like underexplored virtue in many narratives.

Characters with ambiguous moralities, such as Walter White from Breaking Bad or Tony Soprano from The Sopranos, have garnered much attention and acclaim. These complex figures offer valuable insights into the human condition but can overshadow the simple yet profound quality of kindness.

Kindness is far from a one-note trait; it’s a multi-layered quality that can profoundly impact a story and its characters. Take Sydney Carton from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities or Hagrid from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. These characters demonstrate that kindness can coexist with other traits like cynicism or roughness, adding depth to their personalities.

In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Celie employs kindness as a form of resistance against the oppressive systems that seek to break her. Her ability to maintain compassion adds a layer of defiance to her character.

Characters like Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby show that kindness isn’t always altruistic. Gatsby’s extravagant parties serve his agenda to win back Daisy, prompting us to question the authenticity of kindness with ulterior motives.

Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List presents another complexity – kindness that exists in moral gray areas. His motives are not entirely altruistic – at least at the beginning – yet his actions saved lives, illustrating the nuanced ways in which kindness can manifest.

Our culture often celebrates individualism, perhaps at the expense of communal virtues like kindness. The shift toward more self-focused traits could explain why genuinely kind characters seem fewer and far between in contemporary stories.

But it’s not all bleak. Works like Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and shows like Ted Lasso have popularised narratives that focus on empathy and kindness without sacrificing complexity or tension.

Recent books like A Man Called Ove and The Rosie Project also portray the transformative power of kindness, illustrating its capacity to change lives and perspectives even in the most unlikely of characters.

Kindness may be less visible in modern literature than traits like bravery or wit, but it’s far from absent. Its complexity can add nuance to characters and enrich narratives, offering readers a fuller understanding of the human experience. Maybe it’s time we start championing kindness just as much as we do other virtues, welcoming more compassionate narratives into our ever-evolving literary world.

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