Antagonist Monologue: Trish


I’m telling you, I don’t know what this country is coming to!  We used to have standards, there were rules, people knew their places and it was peaceful. Everybody was polite and everybody was happy. And now look at us: Rudeness and violence and division, no respect for the things that made our country great.   We’re just going to Hell, that’s all there is to it! Except here on my island, it’s the other way around: Hell is invading us! I’m sorry, but I am not going to accept demons on my island. You know you’ve crossed a line when people like me start to speak up! There are standards, and I’m going to defend them!

I want to make it clear that I’m not a racist. I’m fine with blacks and Asians and the rest of them, they have some very good-looking people. But I’m not fine with green. Well, who could be? That’s not what God intended when He made the people for this world! No He put demons in Hell where they belong, and they need to go back where they came from!  

My island is infested with these things! They come over from Hell and settle in here and pretend to be just like us, but they’re not! They’re evil. They commit crimes and rape our young girls and leave their half-demon spawn to contaminate humanity.   Yes, I know our country is a melting pot, but you don’t put cat dirt in the soup. I apologize for the crudeness, but there’s no lady-like way to describe demons. They’re just cat dirt, one more thing that’s stinking up a country that used to be made up of gentlemen and the women they respected. We had rules. Now anything goes, even the spawn of Hell on our doorsteps! I don’t mind the Amusement Park and the other theme stores, that’s just make-believe—the gift shop at the Church of Satan is bigger than the nave, that tells you all you need to know right there, plus the Rev is the president of the WPG so obviously not a Satan-follower—but real demons, real evil? Absolutely not!

I was shocked when the Rev told me the Mayor knows about the demons, but it just goes to show what happens when you keep electing a liberal. The Mayor told him that as long as they’re abiding by the law, he doesn’t care, and if they’re not abiding by the law, they’ll be punished just like everybody else. And then he said that since they’re here illegally most of them are more careful about the law than the humans on the island. He says you don’t break the speed limit with a body in the trunk. But the point is that they’re evil and they poison our island just by breathing our air, they’re contaminating our breeding stock, they don’t belong here! Plus they have bodies in their trunks, according the Mayor.

That’s why I belong to the WPG—that’s the White Power Group–on Demon Island. I know, I know, White Power sounds racist, but one of the founders told us some facts at our first meeting, like more non-white babies are being born than white babies. More white people are dying than are being born. Whites will be a minority thirty years from now. White people are disappearing from our culture. If that was happening to minorities, there’d be a telethon, colored ribbons all over the place. But whites? It’s like we’ve had our turn. Well, people don’t get turns, we get what we deserve, and we deserve a country that’s not polluted by demons! We’re a country founded by white people, ruled by white people, dominated by white people, it’s what made this country great.   (That does not mean I think minorities don’t belong here: there are a lot of good ones who aren’t white, although I think they should marry each other, not us, not that I’d throw that Denzel out of bed, but you know, not children..) Our government is for the people, by the people, of the people, do you see demons in that sentence? No, you do not! That’s because they’re just evil! So we have to get rid of them. And white people have to start having more babies.

Thank goodness, there are some people who agree and are doing something about it! That’s the WPG, the White Power Group. We meet secretly after the Stitch and Bitch at the Historical Society on Wednesdays—it’s really kind of exciting–and talk about the demon problem. That new homicide detective, Lily Jones, has just joined us, and I wasn’t sure at first—frankly, she dresses a little slutty, bless her heart—but I think she’s going to be a great help. She says she wants lots of children, and with those hips, she shouldn’t have any trouble—I don’t think she could get her thigh in one of my skirts, but then I’m a 2, she must be a 14, at least in the butt area—she could have plenty of babies what with all the men she has around her just begging for it. She did ask a lot of good questions, like how you can tell if somebody is a demon, which is a problem, I admit.   Demons are crafty.   She also suggested we call ourselves the Human Power Group because White Power sounds a little racist, and we’re going to vote on that at the next meeting.   I’m not sure about that since we’ve always been the White Power Group and tradition is important. But she pointed out that we might get more members if our name didn’t have “white” in it. After all, she said, people of all colors hate demons. So there is that. Plus if Sandy down at the diner joined, we’d get better food at the meetings. I’ll say this about black people: they can cook.

That was at our last meeting, which was a real barn-burner!. First Lily joined, and every man in the group was all over her, even the old ones. Yes, I’m looking at you Stephen Kelly. What is it about men, always wanting younger women? That’s one of the reasons I joined the Stitch and Bitch Club, just to get away from men.  It’s our Women Power group, although we don’t call it that, we just call it Stitch and Bitch. (Thank God my mother taught me to embroider. Which Lily Jones can’t do, Steven, you old fool. Lily Jones knits. That’s really all you need to know about Lily Jones: she makes sweaters. Probably big ones to cover her boobs, which are not real. Bless her heart.  I’m sure it’s somewhere under all that plastic.) I think Women Power is almost as important as White Power because just look at how things are: Women are valued as long as we’re young and our boobs are high but the minute we pass fifty, we’re invisible!   I’m really angry about that, but I don’t know what to do. I mean, short of a face lift again, and then you get to looking all dead anyway because your face doesn’t move, so that’s no solution. That’s the problem with Stitch and Bitch: we do crafts and complain but we don’t do anything about the problems. I need some action on this. If this keeps up, I might become a feminist! (That would settle Stephen Kelly’s hash.)

Then after the big fuss at the WPG meeting over Lily, we talked about the Green Doughnut Project, which we designed to identify the demons on the island. WPG is more than just talk, you know! And it was wildly successful, except two people died. Well, not people, demons, but the police think they were people, so now we have murder investigations. The good news is, Lily is our new homicide detective, and she’s promised to protect us. She says racial purity is more important than justice, and really, that’s true. It’s for the Greater Good!. Anyway, the Doughnut Project was a real eye-opener! Four of the oldest families on the island, just riddled with demons!   This is what happens when you’re not vigilant about demons: they contaminate the best breeding stock. But at least now we know who got sick and we can watch them. The ones who died? Those are the pure demons, so they had to go. We decided to discuss the ones who only got sick next week.   Lily volunteered to head up the DRS (Demon Removal Squad). Stephen says she’s going to be a great asset (but of course he lingered on the “ass’ part. Not that I’m jealous, but could that skirt have been any tighter? Not a lady, but if she kills demons, I’ll put up with her.)

But the big discussion was about the new man living over Hell Bar, the one everybody says is the Devil. Well, he’s a good-looking devil, I’ll give him that, but then he’s a demon so he’s a tempter.   Not that I’m tempted! They do say demons are great in the sack. Well-endowed, you know? (Listen, do you know? Because I’d love to talk about that if you do.) Anyway, about the new man, Nick, all I can say is I know evil when I see it! (Although, you know, evil can be very attractive, and if I was younger or he was older, although that’s so unfair because if he was a woman and I was a man we’d be all over each other, age wouldn’t matter.  Really so unfair!)   But the rumor is that he’s seduced the Mayor’s daughter, Nita Dodd, and that’s bad because she’s also a police officer. (Jason Witherspoon asked her to marry him and she turned him down, if you can believe it! Thinks she’s too good for a Witherspoon! I thought that was a real shame because they’d have made beautiful babies, but then I found out the doughnuts made her sick. She Hellish.  You know, I’m really not surprised. That Mitzi Dodd will sleep with anything that moves, and Nita doesn’t look a thing like her brother or sister. And her brother’s her twin! But now Lily Jones seems to like Jason, and say what you will about her, that woman will make big, healthy babies. And with Jason, she won’t just have healthy babies, she’ll have magnificent babies, the master race! That’s not anti-Semitic, I have nothing against Jews. I don’t think everybody should be blond or anything. I know a lot of very attractive dark-haired people.) Anyway, Lily Jones said she’d go talk to this Nick as part of the homicide investigation into the doughnut deaths and see if he’s just another human pretending to be a demon—we get a lot of those—or if he really is a demon. That’s when she asked how she could tell.  

But then Lily brought up another good point: Nita Dodd will make a fuss about the two deaths. Nita used to be the homicide detective here with Jason before Lily took her job, so she’s against murder, and of course now it turns out that she’s at least part demon, and Lily says she thinks Nita’s going to keep looking into things. I suggested back in the fall that we try to recruit her because having the Mayor’s daughter with us would be a good thing, but Stephen had tried to feel her out (not that way, although knowing Stephen I’m sure he thought about it) and she was pretty sharp with him; she’s one of those liberals who thinks she sees racism everywhere! He tried to tell her about whites becoming a minority and how that was reverse racism, and she said that since racism was about prejudice because of race, reverse racism was about no prejudice because of race, so she was in favor of reverse racism, in fact he could call her a reverse racist any time he wanted, and that that he should stop obsessing about the color of people and do something about the color of his wardrobe because his tie was a crime against humanity. (He seemed quite upset about the criticism, but the truth is, his ties are terrible; the one he was wearing at the meeting had a pin-up girl painted on it, we should have put “Dirty Old Man” on his nametag. And he used to be so handsome, too. Terrible lover, but so nice to look at. I know men are supposed to age better than women, but Stephen is just not keeping up his side of the game.) So we’re going to have to watch Nita, especially if this Nick turns out to be a demon and she’s sleeping with him because if there’s one thing this island doesn’t need, it’s more demon children. Anchor babies from Hell, that’s what they are!

And then Marvella stood up and said that she had some wonderful news that might help with the Nita Dodd problem because Nita’s new partner is a Button! That caused quite a stir, even Lily Jones looked startled. We had to explain to the new people that Buttons had been fighting demons for centuries, real heroes, and we thought they’d died out, but now here comes a young one right onto our police force, and she’s working with our Problem on the Force. So that’s wonderful!

So we’re keeping an eye on Nita Dodd and this Nick. Even if Nita’s only part demon, she’s still a danger because she’ll probably side with the demons. It won’t be a problem to get rid of them; we still have a lot of iron sprinkles, but I’m hoping we don’t have to because you know how the Mayor gets about his children, even the Hellish ones, I guess! (And if this Nick isn’t a demon, I may discuss the advantages of older women with him.   Because I’ll say this, he is a fine piece of work, even if he is probably all full of himself and bad in bed. You can’t have everything. Needs must when the Devil drives!)

So that’s where we are. It’s an uphill battle, but we have God on our side, and I’m sure if He came to Earth He’d be MUCH more attractive than the Devil.   The important thing is that we’re saving the country, putting things back the way they belong. Or at least we’re saving Demon Island. Somebody else is going to have to save the rest of New Jersey, I just don’t have the energy for that kind of heavy lifting.

Also we need more appreciation for mature women. Stitch and Bitch really needs to get on that.

52 thoughts on “Antagonist Monologue: Trish

  1. Holy moly! So many blindspots, right out there in plain view. She’s a very interesting character, and she is such a bundle of contradictions. I love her reverse sexism.

    I think this technique could be useful for me right now.

    1. It’s actually difficult because you have to love them. And I don’t love Mammon and Trish, yet. I don’t have to love the bad parts, but I have to understand them, and I’m still standing outside them, so these both need work.

      I think the key to Trish is that she really does think that she’s not racist because she’s nice to Sandy and wouldn’t dream of calling anyone a racial slur. And she really is in despair because she’d based her life on being little and pretty and then that evaporated when she got older, even though she’s still little and pretty. She just doesn’t understand why things are so wrong. That’s the part I have to access, that bewildered little woman who really is in pain. Because the rest of her is just awful.

      1. I think you are on the right track. I admire her feisty streak, even though she is horrible to her other human beings (and other creatures).

        I was thinking about Captain Todger, who is a character on the British sketch show, That Mitchell and Webb Look. Captain Todger is very horrible, too, but one gets the sense that he is for justice, so one overlooks his horribleness. Gene, from Life on Mars, is also pretty horrible, but I got to like him over the series. He, again, wants to make life better for the people of his city. Also likable is that he can change his mind (the difficulty in doing so contributes to the satisfaction of Sam’s triumphs).

        I’m also reminded of Nanny Ogg, although I’m not sure why. Nanny Ogg, even though she’s old and fat, is the Queen of her World, and still has so much charisma. Nothing seems to have gone wrong with her life — it wouldn’t dare, LOL. All three of Pratchett’s witches have deep suspicions of “foreign parts” but I love them anyway.

        I guess in all of these cases, these people use their powers for a greater good, despite their flaws. It sounds like Trish is starting from a flawed premise, and comes up with flawed conclusions to act upon, which leads to flawed tragedy (? or so I predict).

        Anyway, fascinating. I married an Asian guy, and when I go back to the States, I sometimes see/hear these attitudes — racism in spots I never suspected it would be lurking. “Oh, *he’s* OK. But you have to admit . . . .” No. No, I do not admit. I do admit to prejudices against greasy guys, whether they be black, white or Asian, but that’s more classism than racism, and I try to keep it in check in non-threatening situations. I guess we all have to fight against the mis-application of stereotypes.

        1. I loved Gene because he was so horribly flawed and because he still tried to do the right thing every time. He was a sexist, homophobic bigot, but by God nobody was going to get away with hurting people on his watch.

          My absolute favorite moment in that series is in the first episode, when Sam and Gene have been fighting bitterly the entire time, and Sam is getting nowhere with the witness who is elderly and doddering, and Gene comes in and gives her a cookie and asks her the right question, and she says the key thing, and in that moment Sam and Gene both realize what it means, and look at each other in complete understanding, and leap over the desk at the same time to go save the victim. It’s glorious. ALL of that series is just pure gold, but I love that moment so much as a writer because the entire series is right there.

          The leap over the desk is in this preview at about the 28 second mark:

        1. I realized I should probably clarify that he’s tackling that same idea of: but I’M not a racist, I like black people!

          Also, re Trish being bewildered as to what just happened, he has another article that might be illuminating. It’s really more about older white men, but I think the idea behind it can apply to Trish. And jesus, 2012. So this stuck with me for awhile.

  2. This was so good at showing who she is that I had to stop reading because I really don’t like people like this in real life.

    Again with the amazing craft.

  3. I think people like her are afraid, too, if that helps. And she sounds lonely to me.

    It’s great to read.

    Is Stephen related, in terms of character, to Stephen in Welcome to Temptation?

    1. Mammon is practical. Trish is driven by grief and rage.
      Mammon is logical. Trish is passionate.

      Yeah, I’ll take Mammon any day of the week: He’s up front about what he wants and if it isn’t feasible to achieve his goals, he’ll change course. He will not kill, for example: the risk is just too high (unless it’s Nick who’s already dead). He won’t stop others from killing as long as he’s not attached to them in any way, but violence is not his path. That’s why Max is his minion instead of some thug.

      Trish, on the other hand, in unhinged. Everything she says is illogical, but she believes. Those people are dangerous because they have no guardrails.

    1. Trish campaigned for him. I don’t think there’s anything scarier than a true believer. Their actions are always justified in their eyes, especially the really horrible ones.

  4. One suggestion. Trish says “hey’re just cat dirt, one more thing that’s stinking up a country that used to be made up of gentlemen and the women they respected.”

    I think Trish would say ladies, not women. I think to someone like her, there’s a real distinction between women & ladies. I also don’t think she thinks of men first in that sentence. So something more like “…made up of ladies & the gentlemen who respected them.”

    1. I thought about that line a lot, the “Men and the women who . . . .” I think she’d put men first, she’s not a feminist, she likes traditional order. It was the “women who” that made me think. The “women who loved them” or “the women who helped them” was too general, I wanted something in there that betrayed her anger and hurt.

      But yes, “ladies” is probably better than “women” there.

      The cat dirt came from my grandmother who used to say that so and so was “meaner than cat dirt,” which I still don’t get, but that has stayed with me.

      1. Probably because cat pee is the most corrosive chemical known to mankind. If a cat sprays your lawnmower, the paint will slough off, and linoleum will bubble and warp, and the carpet will be permanently discolored. Cat dirt is probably just a more genteel way of saying cat pee. But as we all know I am not genteel.

      2. I was thinking of her as someone like Phyllis Schlafly – a woman who proudly decried feminism and said women’s place was in the home and their only job should be their family AND yet, didn’t mean those rules to apply to her. Schlafly started her own organization so she wouldn’t have to be take a backseat to male leadership even as she worked to defeat the ERA.

        The ladies/women part was the part that felt false to me – the men first struck me as something she’d say she believed in but didn’t subconsciously believe.

        1. I think I saw “men who loved them” or “men who respected them” as something she was due. They owed her that.

  5. I had to leave it a day before I posted, because I wanted to throttle Trish.

    Now, I am picturing her as an aunty, or a friend’s mother or something, and then I was OK with her. Not her views, or her position, but I could love her anyway, because she might be generous to a fault, or the worlds best cookie baker-and giver-awayer, or any one of a number of other good characteristics. OK, so she’s got these awful wrong-headed views, but she got them from somewhere, and I can understand the grief and rage and bewilderment she’s feeling at the world not being her view of perfect. I feel that too, but about different things. She thinks my liberal attitudes are just as wrong headed. She may not want me to, but I feel sorry for her.

    1. That’s my problem: I don’t feel sorry for her. I have to like her and I don’t. I understand her, but I don’t like her.
      And you really have to like your antagonists. Not approve of them, but connect with them.

      If you look at the really great antagonists like Hannibal Lecter, they’re as fascinating at the protagonists. And I always have a problem with that because I’m so invested in my protagonists. I can understand people like Trish and Brenda from Agnes and May from Maybe This Time, but I dislike them because they’re all so damn selfish. The monologues help sometimes, but sometimes they just reaffirm that I don’t LIKE THESE PEOPLE.

      That’s a problem.

      ETA: I did do one antagonist I liked: Xan from The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes. I had a BLAST writing her, but that might be because I wrote all her scenes after the book was finished.

      1. I feel presumptuous suggesting this, but if your antagonist exists to display things you don’t like, rather than existing as a character who then does things you don’t like, it might be hard to find a reason to like her. In the real world, you meet your friend’s cousin (or whoever) as a person first, so you know them a little before you learn how truly awful they are, but if you start with the attitudes that piss you off, then it’s hard to see past those to the person.

        I’m struggling because I want to separate who someone is from the attitudes they hold. I adored my granddad, while being aware that he held racist attitudes. That attitude didn’t define all he was. Is Trish completely defined by the attitudes she holds, and the actions she takes under them…? If she had grandkids (with liberal views) would they love her? And if so, why?

        On the other hand, I really didn’t like Brenda, but it didn’t mean I didn’t love the book.

        1. You’re not presumptuous.
          I don’t think the antagonist exists to display unpleasant character traits, but the antagonist does have to have motivations that explain the things she or he does. For me, Trish is a woman who was raised to feel entitled and now that that’s been stripped away, she’s angry. And she has reason to be angry, she just doesn’t know how to deal with it. So she tears down the people who make her angry, who remind her of what she’s lost, and she focuses her anger on something that certainly everyone will agree with her on: demons are bad.
          But there should be something good about her, too.
          Brenda’s actually a good example: there wasn’t one damn thing about Brenda that was good. I think that was a mistake, although it did make it easier to loathe her. Evie is a better example: an antagonist you could like.

          1. She taught Agnes to cook, and she really did love her daughter (in her own way). She was awful, and extremely limited in her ability to understand or express love, but it hurt her when LL chose Agnes. There wasn’t much that was good about her, but there was that.

          2. I saw that as part of her greed. She wanted everything for her, even LL and Maria’s love. She stole LL’s money and ruined Maria’s wedding to get her house back. And she knew Shane’s parents were going to be killed, that’s why she offered to baby sit him when he was an infant.

            But yeah, her pain over LL choosing Agnes was probably the most human thing about her.

        1. Mine, too. Well, actually everybody’s now; Trish and her peers are the reason Trump got elected.

  6. I’m not surprised you don’t like them – there’s nothing likeable in them. (Which isn’t to say they aren’t wonderfully written. I am in awe.)

    Why is it important that the writer likes her antagonists? Isn’t understanding them enough?

  7. Here is an article today by a writer who, while not liking, has a sort of sympathetic understanding of her “antagonist.”

    The important sentence for me is this:

    “This is why I always pair privilege with obliviousness;
    obliviousness is privilege’s form of deprivation.”

    There is a line from the musical West Side Story, “I’m depraved because I’m deprived.” ISTM that part of the sadness of Trish’s life is that she is deprived because she is depraved.

    1. That article is amazing.

      I really responded to this:

      “And what [Arendt] called ‘the banality of evil’ was the inability to hear another voice, the inability to have a dialogue either with oneself or the imagination to have a dialogue with the world, the moral world.”

      The idea that the fatal flaw of anyone who strives is the inability to see outside the bubble of his or her perception is key, I think, because it must ultimately lead to failure. Maybe that’s an approach: to see the antagonist as a normal human being without one key aspect–empathy, understanding, whatever–that leads to the hubris that brings him down.

      Must cogitate. Excellent essay.

        1. (Curse HTML turning emojis into text-deleting commands, let’s try this again…)

          The fatal flaw being the inability to listen to/see other people’s points of view is a powerful one. I’m reminded of the argument that in Beauty and the Beast, Gaston and the Beast are basically doing the same thing (using their power to trap Belle into staying with them) so why is Beast the hero and Gaston the villain? And the answer is, of course, that the Beast learns to listen to Belle, to admit, apologize, and atone for his mistakes, and ultimately to respect her wishes, even when they conflict with his own. Gaston is his foil, whose inability to listen and therefore to change leads to his downfall and underscores Beast’s own figurative and literal transformation.

          When it comes to Trish, this monologue gives me some moments of sympathy (mostly of the “bless her heart” type, admittedly), and definite insight into her villainous motivations, but yeah, not exactly seeing much in the way of redeeming features or likeability. That might call for a different sort of monologue or scene…?

          By the way, do you ever find yourself making a villain too likeable/sympathetic, so that you find yourself going over to their side yourself? Or alternately, do you ever worry about making the villain too likeable/persuasive and find yourself consciously or subconsciously pulling back on how sympathetic they are so you DON’T start rooting for them? (Why yes, I tend to overthink everything, why do you ask?)

          1. I think the difference is Gaston thinks that what he’s doing is also what’s best for Belle because he’s the greatest prize on this earth.

            The Beast knows he’s doing it because he needs her, not because any of this is what’s best for her. So he’s trying to do things and be things that will make it easier on her.

            Gaston thinks she’s lucky he picked her. (Gaston is of course wrong.)

          2. I wrote a villain I loved–Xan in The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes–but I wrote all of her scenes after the book was finished. Jen read the book and said, “We need Xan’s PoV” and I wrote all her scenes in a weekend. I LOVED her. I’m wondering now if it was because she was just the antagonist for most of the book, and then I spent the weekend with her, in her head, and saw why she was doing everything, how she justified it, how she was at least in part right. She still ended up being a horrible person (she turned into a giant snake, I couldn’t help myself) but I loved her in her scenes.

            Actually, Xan was a lot like me. That may be why.

  8. I see Trish as a fearful older lady whose already narrow world has shrunk. She’s holding on to what she’s known under the guise of being protective for the greater good of the island, but at the base of her anxiety is fear that everything will change or be taken from her. So she fights back against everything and everyone “different to herself” by putting them down, which makes her racist even though she would not consider herself as such. She just wants her world to remain the way she’s known it since a child.

    1. I do, too, but I have the same problem with that that I do with the Trump voters.
      I know they were voting out of fear and frustration, having been ignored too long, I understand that. But they still voted for a man who advocated religious persecution and bragged about molesting women, a man who encouraged the Russians to hack his opponent’s e-mails and fomented violence at his rallies. He’s a horrible person, and they justified voting for him because of their pain.
      So I can understand why Trish thinks the way she does, and if she just sat there and thought that, I wouldn’t like her but I could feel some sympathy for somebody who’s lost everything she thinks made her valuable. But she’s participating in violence against others, she’s fomenting hatred and pain, and all my sympathy evaporates at that point.

      1. Oh, I agree 100%. I understand her, but I don’t agree with her.
        One thing my mother (94 this year) always advocates is keeping up with the changes in the world. Continuing to learn new things. She claims that is what keeps her young and less fearful. 😉

  9. I think that some fascinating antagonists are often paired with a very domestic activity as a point of connection to the writer/reader. The Mayor still plays golf. Angel plays raquetball with the circle of Black Thorn. Elias cooks pasta. A mob boss has to finish cleaning up this mess so they can catch their kid’s school musical. Then the mundane action gains a sinister tone to it, too.

    What/how does Trish eat? Does she mostly cook at home, or does she have a favorite diner? Could that diner possibly be the same as Nita’s? What’s her favorite/least favorite household chore? Does she shower or does she bathe? Does she actually enjoy wearing what she wears, or does she wear it because she thinks she has to?
    What’s the one part of her life that isn’t touched by her prejudices? What would be the highlight of her day if she wasn’t bitter? No one is evil 24/7, and their preferences in the non-evil parts of their life inform their personalities just as much.

    1. I don’t think she’s evil in the sense of plotting evil. I think she’s just narrow-minded and angry, which is how a lot of evil gets done. For example, she’d condemn anyone who was overtly racist, or tried to hurt someone because of race, mainly because she knows that’s socially wrong. Not morally wrong, socially wrong. I think she probably leads a narrow life because she’s always lived a narrow life, based on her looks and her community position, but now her looks are going and the community is changing and her narrow life just got narrower. So she works at the Historical Society because that’s a good social position, and she joined Stitch and Bitch and the WPG because she likes social things. I think her life has probably always been external; the closest she comes to an interior life is a cup of tea in front of the television with some chocolates as a sinful pleasure. It’s one of the reasons she’s so angry; she’s being forced to fall back onto her own thoughts, and she doesn’t have any that aren’t about conflict with other people.

      1. That’s why I think it’s important to figure out the could-have-been: what would it take for Trish not to be consumed by political anxiety? There are certainly people who get devoured by popularity politics, especially in a limited social environment such as school or a small town, but even those people have at least a desired oasis from it all, even if they don’t actually have said oasis. What is that trousers-of-time moment that sent Trish down the bitter-social-politics leg rather than as a neutral social follower? If Trish had happened to grow up in a leftist environment, would she be just as nasty a Woke activist?

        And the apparently apolitical mundanities still matter. What food does Trish deny herself because it would impinge on her desired public image (whether that’s worrying about her weight, or a food outside of her designated acceptable class), vs. the guilty pleasures she indulges in anyways? Does she have guilty pleasures she really keeps a secret from everyone, and “guilty pleasures” she publicly admits to indulging because it’s really socially acceptable to admit them as such?

        Is Trish the type that denies herself things for her image at all, or is she more of the self-rationalizing hypocrite type? Just how much does she buy into ideology as only a social thing vs. actually drinking the Kool-aid?

        1. That’s an interesting question.
          I don’t think Trish ever had a different path. I think given who she was born to and how she was raised and how she embraced that identity, there wasn’t ever going to be another path because she was so comfortable where she was. Being young and pretty and flirty WORKED for her, being part of a patriarchal, white society was good for her. She never wanted to be an astronaut. She just wanted to wear pretty clothes and have people bring her tea and cake. By the time it became clear that those days were over, not just for her but for everybody, all she had was resentment. “I had this great life and somebody took it from me.” Except it wasn’t somebody, it was time and societal change, but those are abstracts, so she needs to focus her rage and disappointment and grief on something else. Racism on Demon Island isn’t going to cut it–it’s too small an island with too mixed a population so she can’t even mutter racist thought to herself–but demons are an entirely different matter.

          I think a lot of the time, pretty girls like Trish are bullies, the mean girls, because they don’t realize they’re being mean, that’s just the way the world works. The bully part is coded (“Bless your heart”) but it’s still cruel and effective. And then they lose that edge, they have to find somebody else to bully, to be better than. “I may have fallen, but I’m not THAT.”

          I think it takes a certain level of intelligence to even realize there’s another choice, and I don’t think Trish has that. Cecily does, even Marvella does, but I don’t think Trish ever saw another way because she was so comfy in the way things were.

  10. Trish is the historical center lady, who was flirty, yes? The one who Betty White was the place holder for?

    1. Yes, but like all the placeholders, Betty White faded away and now Trish is just Trish. Maybe if I try to bring her back, Trish will be more likable, but I don’t think so. But physically, yes, she’d be pretty like Betty White. But not like Betty White.

  11. What a great thread, Jenny. Watched and read the links (thanks contributors), so much wisdom to ponder.

    It seems to me your antagonist, Trish, doesn’t need to be lovable for now, just potentially redeemable. As in, maybe include a brief moment of clarity or doubt. A small crack in her belief system. (That’s what I hope for Trump supporters. He’s always going to be cat dirt (love this!), but I haven’t given up on them yet. They’re my fellow travelers whether I like it or not).

    I think most readers prefer antagonists who aren’t pure evil. The most interesting have understandable goals and motivations, even while they’re wrong-headed.

    Thanks for the education.

  12. You know, the thing I find likable-ish about Trish is how interested she is in other people. It’s a selfish kind of interest, undermined by incredibly judgmental criticisms. But I think it’s genuine interest. And people who are interested in other people – who want to connect with others, even if they don’t do it very well – are more human and more likable, imho.

    I might be over-simplifying, but I wonder whether tugging on the thread of Trish’s interest in others might be the key to liking her more. In other words, when you scratch beneath the surface, it is all just spiteful gossip? Or are there some folks who she respects or even likes (grudgingly and/or without fully realizing it, of course) even though they are Those Kinds of People? And if so, does that change how you feel about her? Or is it not quite enough, given how much of her motivation is still small-minded and selfish?

    1. I think Mammon is comfortable. The Guy Who’s Out for Himself.
      Trish hits closer to home as somebody we might know, especially now in the Age of Trump.

      Lani and I were at the DMV several years ago getting my license renewed, and there was this cartoon of a monkey at the camera that was really funny, and we were laughing. And this incredibly sweet little old lady was sitting next to us and laughing, too, and then she leaned toward us and said, “That’s Obama.” And we stopped laughing, and Lani said, “What?” and she drew back, embarrassed. It’s still one of the more shocking moments of my life because of the complete disconnect, this sweet little old lady and her ugly, disgusting racism.

    2. Now that you mention, it is interesting. I think Mammon is a character that’s often been depicted (not the least as Mammon himself (-:). Greedy guy, out for number one. Maybe we’re numb to that sort of guy.

      But Trish reminds me more of an Austen villain. She’s complex and in denial — and we just don’t see her type that often. At least, we rarely see this kind of character’s inner life. It often gets cut with the other darlings. Austen had so many women who were petty and interested in Number One, and preserving their social reputation. I think Sense and Sensibility — the wife who convinced her Husband the Heir that they didn’t need to do anything for the second wife and her daughters after all. Not racism, but a sort of classism and mostly clan-ism.


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