What does redemption mean in literature?

Well… for starters, what does redemption mean, period? The dictionary has two definitions:

  1. 1.
    the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.
    “God’s plans for the redemption of his world”
    synonyms: saving, freeing from sin, absolution

    “God’s redemption of his people”
  2. 2.
    the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.
    synonyms: retrieval, recovery, reclamation, repossession, returnMore

So what does this mean for the characters that we write? Is redemption turning good and working to undo the damage they’ve done? For an evil character to truly be redeemed, must they completely repair the damage that they’ve done? What if the character’s crime is too extreme for them to ever pay it back?

So to answer our original question, we must then also satisfy the question of whether or redemption is possible.

There are varying opinions on this. Some would say that a dark character, depending on the level of crime cannot be redeemed. Others might say that yes a character can be redeemed, but it would require a major act of goodness which usually means self-sacrifice to save another. Then there’s a small group that would argue that the self-sacrifice, while noble, would not solve the problem, nor would it redeem the character because it wouldn’t give them a chance to undo any of the damage they’ve done.

So is it possible for a character to redeem themselves. Well the answer is, simply put, that depends. Most people would say that a character who is responsible for the genocide of innocent people would be completely beyond redemption… that said, many of those same people would argue that characters like Darth Vader, responsible for the deaths many Jedi, including younglings, and the Dark Phoenix, who destroyed a solar system, rendering an entire species extinct, are able to be redeemed.
Think about it, those of us who read comics, how many of us were hoping the the X-Men would defeat the Shi’ar in defense of the Phoenix?

So perhaps in the end, you only have one or two answers:

1. If you have done enough to redeem yourself in the eyes of God (which I’m not saintly enough to speak to his requirements)

or (in most cases, if you don’t believe in God)

2. If you have done enough to redeem yourself in the eyes of the people you’ve hurt.

In these cases, redemption is in the eye of the beholder. So there is no really clear cut answer. In the end, it depends on you, the writer. Blasphemous as it might be, when it comes to the world you are creating, YOU are God and only you can decide if a character has, or can, do enough to redeem themselves.


Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

1 Comment on “Character Redemption

  1. What occurs to me is the line of Black Widow in the Avengers movie talking about the amount of red in her ledger. I like the image of a balance book of right and wrong when considering redemption and a character weighing if they can fully atone for the things they’ve done.


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