What's the Name of That Book??? discussion

Suggest books for me > When The Good Guy Loses - Literary Novels

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message 1: by Hazell (new)

Hazell Ward | 7 comments Morning all,
I'm looking for suggestions for books where the hero of the book loses, not just temporarily (as a hook to the next installment, for example), but totally just fails to get whatever it was it was after through the book, almost like a Shakespearean tragedy.
Preferably not looking for Sci-Fi or Fantasy books, but 'proper literature', if you know what I mean (it's for my PhD)
I don't think that there are many, and the reason is obvious, because on the face of it, the failure of a protagonist doesn't make for a great book, but if you have any suggestions, I would be grateful

message 2: by Rachel (last edited Jan 09, 2020 03:33AM) (new)

Rachel | 1531 comments Ethan Frome - one of the bleakest endings you will ever read.

Revolutionary Road - couple tries to break out of their suburban rut with disastrous consequences.

In the Woods - this is a crime novel but may be classed as literary. (view spoiler)

In the Cut - the book ending is different to the film. (view spoiler)

message 3: by Ergative (new)

Ergative Absolutive | 40 comments There are tons of books like that! 'Proper literature' is lousy with miserable people who are miserable and then die. I think what you mean is that failure of a protagonist doesn't make for a fun read (and I entirely agree), but the Curators Of The Canon seem pretty happy with 'life sucks and then you die' as a plot arc.

Point of clarification: by good guy do you mean protagonist? Or must the hero actually be a good guy?

The Princess Casamassima and The Wings of the Dove by Henry James. (Wings of the Dove is a funky one--he strictly speaking gets what he wants, but by the time he gets it he doesn't want it anymore.)

Everything ever by Thomas Hardy

Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray (not, in any sense of the word, a good guy to begin with, but he does lose big.)

I seem to recall that Great Expectations left me feeling this way.

1984 by George Orwell (both sci-fi and proper literature)

message 6: by Hazell (new)

Hazell Ward | 7 comments Fantastic, thank you all.
I had a few of these on my list, but you have all given be some great ideas.
I particularly like The Metamorphosis (or rather, I don't like it at all, because, you know, insects are horrible)
The Grapes of Wrath is interesting. I had been thinking about that, because it is pretty bleak, but there is that little bit at the end with Rose of Sharon and the starving man (won't go into detail in case you haven't read it or you are eating) which kind of points to the indomitablility of the human spirit.
The Trial - I'm presuming you mean Kafka - I haven't read, so will check it out.
Ditto Revolutionary Road
Will put them on my reading list.
I have never read Henry James, but will have a look at Wings of a Dove. And Ethan Frome is also new to me. They will be going on my reading list too
Many thanks for all your suggestions.
That will keep me busy for a while, but if anyone can suggest any more, that would be great too!

message 8: by Hazell (new)

Hazell Ward | 7 comments About the protagonist/good guy question, it is a little blurred, but I think I usually mean the good guy.
Sometimes the good guy can be an anti-hero, but the reader still sees some sort of good in them. Out and out villains can fail and be as miserable as they like
Nineteenth century literature was full of people dying in misery, particularly if they had behaved in any way that could conceivably be thought of as immoral. (you mentioned Thomas Hardy, which is a perfect example. I already had Jude the Obscure on my list), but writers do like to include just a little bit of sugar to sweeten even the grimmest of ends, for obvious reasons

message 9: by Hazell (new)

Hazell Ward | 7 comments Thank you Rosa, 2 other books I have not read. Will check them out!

message 10: by Moloch (new)

Moloch | 275 comments If you like Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

Although, if you're looking for books where the main character actively tries to pursue a goal and fails (not books that simply "end badly"), I don't know, in that one I see Tess as a victim of circumstances and other people. (She's not "active", I'm trying to say)

message 11: by Hazell (new)

Hazell Ward | 7 comments Moloch, you have hit the nail on the head.
It's not the miserable end that is important to me, it is the complete failure of achieving the goal that the protagonist sets out to achieve.
Tess is a victim of circumstance, and despite that a moral judgement is made on her, despite it being undeserved really, but, according to the Victorian sense of propriety she has to pay for that with her life.
But those novels where the protagonist has a goal and completely fails to meet it, and fewer and further between
I was thinking of La La Land, though it is a film not a book, where, what we think, and what the protagonists think, is their aim, turns out to be unachievable, and not just that, they realise that its not as important to them as they thought.
It can be a bit (a lot) anticlimactic if its not handled well

message 12: by Tytti (last edited Jan 10, 2020 06:34AM) (new)

Tytti | 190 comments In Unknown Soldiers the "main" protagonist (just like 420,000 others) will lose his home and farm in the end, anyway, because that is historically accurate, unless of course he is killed first, like many other ("main") characters. Basically the whole book is about losing, no one really wins.

message 13: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 1531 comments It's a play rather than a novel but Death of a Salesman might fit the bill.

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