Brushing with the Law
By Nisansala Dharmasena Bertholamuze
“What we hear by our ears is taken in through the ear and traversed into the brain whilst double checked for authenticity. Instead of doing so just letting the words heard pass by from one ear and through the other is the irresponsible way I live.”
From Darth Vader to Count Dracula, some of the best fiction writing contains unforgettable villains. Villains help define a story’s hero, drive the conflict and capture the reader’s attention. For that reason, villains are just as important as the good guys in a story. Dushtayekuge Adara Kathawak by Dilshan Pathirathna brings in such a villain to the forte of Sri Lankan literature through the genre of a thriller. Pathirathna chooses the legal world in creating the setting for Dushtayekuge Adara Kathawak.
“I am Attorney-at-Law Subhash Rathnayake; junior of senior counsel Mr. Naveen Pinnapola. I appeared for this trial on the instruction of Mr. Pinnapola.”
Every great hero needs a great villain. Villains are the antagonistic force of a story that challenges the hero of a story and drives the action. Most great villains share a common set of characteristics. There should be a strong connection to the hero. The best villains are inextricably connected to the hero, and aid in the hero’s character development through their inherent opposition to them.
For example, in the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort murdered Harry Potter’s parents when he was a child, leaving behind a magical scar on Harry’s forehead which intrinsically connects the two characters throughout the story. This scar serves as a symbolic reminder of the connection between Harry and Voldemort, and reveals the manner in which the fates of a hero and a villain are dependent on one another.
The villain of Dushtayekuge Adara Kathawak portrays this characteristic of the strong connection between the narrator of the first half of the story, Subhash Rathnayake, and the villain of the story. Their mutual respect to each other as well the legal working practice sets the balance between this relationship.
Dushtayekuge Adara Kathawak takes the reader to the cultural setting as well as into working practices unique in the legal field. A field where a façade is maintained to keep up the social status created within the legal field.
“Our senior drank only Gold Label. Used a Rolex watch. On his right arm was a bracelet which didn’t match the status of a senior counsel.”
“Giving us movies to watch and books to read which were written by Freud, he did all that to show his status.”
Every villain needs to have his own morality. If a villain spends part of the story killing people, the author needs to give him or her believable reasons for doing so. He must make the reader understand exactly what desperation or belief has driven the villain to it. For instance, in Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the primary antagonist Captain Beatty’s mission is to find and destroy books because he believes that books cause people to reject the stability and tranquility of a life of conformity. He has a strong moral point of view, and the reader believes that he believes he is doing the right thing by trying to burn books. After all, every villain believes they are the hero of their own story.
The villain of Dushtayekuge Adara Kathawak believes the same. In committing the crime of murder he justifies his actions via the narration of the story by the villain himself at the latter part of Dushtayekuge Adara Kathawak.
“That is her word. Her word which poisoned our relationship which enriched our life for four years.”
Becoming a worthy opponent is another characteristic of a villain. A great villain should be a strong and worthy adversary to the hero. They shouldn’t be weak and easily beaten, nor should they be so powerful that they can only be defeated by random chance. In Sherlock Holmes, his arch-nemesis Moriarty is a criminal mastermind who is every bit as smart as Sherlock. Having a villain who is in many ways equal in skill and intelligence to your hero will raise the stakes of their encounters, as it creates a credible threat that your hero might be bested.
Dushtayekuge Adara Kathawak portrays the character of a villain with vivid detail.
“One day in the chamber on the senior’s table there was a brown coloured lady’s handbag.” Manoj says like Sherlock Holmes.
“Reggie thinks that I have another affair. He is so suspicious about me. He was like that from the days when we lived in the UK.”
Any good villain should have an interesting and credible backstory. In addition to creating a deep and more three-dimensional villain, a memorable backstory allows ourselves to identify and even sympathise with the villain. For example, the Gollum character in The Lord of the Rings trilogy used to be a normal hobbit until he was corrupted by the power of the One Ring. In addition to deepening the character by showing the reader the full breadth of his journey from virtuousness to wickedness, Gollum’s backstory forces the reader to consider how humans are sometimes tempted by bad or unethical forces in their own lives.
“A retired Major has been killed within the house.”
“Major Reggie Fernandoz murdered by stabbing.” Such news headlines open the door to the backstory of the villain in Dushtayekuge Adara Kathawak.
The most alluring characteristic of a villain is that a villain should be fun. In Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs, readers hold their breath whenever Hannibal Lecter appears on the page. Whether it’s their black-hearted sense of humour or their odious worldview, a reader’s favourite villains possess qualities that a reader would love to hate.
“This case will be heard in the High Court gentlemen. According to Janaki when divorce was mentioned Reggie had jumped to hit her.”
Dushtayekuge Adara Kathawak begins its narration through the first person narration of Subhash Rathnayake and moves towards the ending via the first person narration in an unforgettable twist of the plot by the narration of a villain who will leave a lasting impression on the readers’ mind.