Redeeming Bible Villains–Cain
Posted by monicamynk
You’d think in a Christian fiction story, writing a good villain would be simple. After all, the Bible spells out all the character traits in plain and simple terms in many places. Perhaps, none as clearly as Proverbs 6:12-19:
A worthless person, a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth; He winks with his eyes, he shuffles his feet, he points with his fingers;
Perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord.
Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.
These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.
It’s a challenge to write a character with all of these traits who doesn’t come across as unidimensional, as I discovered a couple of years ago in a NaNoWriMo debacle. But just because it’s Christian fiction, that doesn’t mean we have to stick to black and white, pure evil versus sinless good.
There are articles all over the Internet advising writers to give their villains redeeming qualities. Which got me thinking–what are the redeeming qualities of Bible villains? Can Christian fiction writers not draw inspiration from them?
Genesis 4 opens with Eve giving birth to Cain and sayiing, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.”
If he came from God, he had to be good, right? The Bible tells us “in the process of time” it came to pass that Cain and Abel brought their offerings to God. I’ve wondered so many things about this story–how old were Cain and Abel when this animosity first arose between them? Teenagers? Young adults? Middle grade? Did they argue all the time like my kids do, and need continual redirection to make wise choices in how they relate to each other? What kind of parents were Adam and Eve? After all, they didn’t have access to billions of parenting self-help blogs. Did they neglect discipline to a point that Cain’s anger and jealousy thrived?
Even sin was new to them–no one before them had ever learned from such mistakes. Did Adam and Eve have explosive arguments and struggle with their own tempers? Sometimes I think we like to throw them in the garden all happy-go-lucky after the apple incident, but I suspect they were humans like the rest of us, struggling with daily sin.
Yes, Cain was a murderer. Yes, he was prideful. A heart full of malice, intent to rebel against the will of God–all the makings of a good villain.
But God also showed him mercy, lessening his punishment by placing the mark on him so that he couldn’t be killed. And though Cain separated himself from God, he went on to build a city and raise a family.
Mario Puzo’s The Godfather comes to mind. How could those men could murder in cold blood and then embrace and hug their children in practically the next breath? Did Cain, like Michael Corleone, destroy others through evil acts, or did the guilt from his brother’s murder change him? Did he raise his children with a heavy hand? Execute wrath on his wife? The hints of vanity and lustfulness in Genesis 4:16-24 show us that sin ran rampant within his family, yet surely there were tender moments of humanity.
And I think that’s the key–a lot of novels only loosely develop the antagonist because it’s hard to reveal such details without having to work around POV. Good writers will find some way to pepper that backstory in without making it seem contrived.
Now, off to analyze my WIP to see where I might throw some of that backstory in.
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Tags: Abel, author, Bible villains, Cain, christian fiction, multidimensional characters, novel, parenting mistakes, proverbs 6, redeeming qualities of villains, story, teen, the Godfather, things the Lord hates, wicked man, write, writer, writing, young adult