Narratology is a theory of narrative, also known as the plot, which is a series of events that make up the story. Aristotle studied narratology, focusing on the genre of drama, and developed the concept of the tragic hero. In Poetics, Aristotle defined specific qualifications for the tragic hero, such as the hamartia, the peripeteia, the anagnorisis, and the hubris, as well as describing several other common traits. Lena Duchannes from the The Caster Chronicles series has more than a few of these qualities, that ultimately help to define her as a modern-day tragic heroine.
Arguably most importantly, the hero must have a flaw, or an error or judgment, also known as the hamartia. Oftentimes the hero is doomed from the start, as Lena is. The world of the Beautiful Creatures series is identical to our own modern-day United States — except for one thing: there is another, secret world of magic and Casters coexisting with us. Casters are essentially modern-day witches who must keep their magic a secret.
However, there are also Light Casters, who try to use their magic for good, and Dark Casters, who are said to have lost the power to love and use their powers for evil. All Casters are able to choose whether they want to be Light or Dark, except for the Duchannes family, who have been cursed. In which case, that decision is made for them on their sixteenth birthday, and they are Claimed for either the Light or the Dark.
This spells extra trouble for Lena, who is a Natural, the most powerful type of Caster, able to control weather and the elements. Although most Duchannes show some signs of being Claimed Light or Dark before their birthday, Lena seems at war with herself, and has a hard time controlling her powers under stress. As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Lena is unsure if she will be Claimed as either Light or Dark. She fears she will go Dark and ultimately destroy everything she’s ever cared about, and that entire decision is out of her hands.
As Lena’s journey of self-discovery unfolds over the course of four books, one could debate where her next qualifier actually lies. To minimize on spoilers, I will only reference the first book and a bit of the second in this post, though there are better examples from subsequent books in the series. Of course, Lena is not alone throughout the series, and indeed most of the books are from the perspective of the other main character: Ethan Wate. The first book starts off with Ethan having dreams about Lena before she even moves into town. When he finally meets her, Ethan finds himself drawn to her, despite everything strange that happens around her. Lena tries to push him away for fear of getting him involved, but he doesn’t listen. When she finally tells him about the Caster world, he doesn’t run away, and the two eventually fall in love. In this way, Ethan becomes Lena’s new greatest weakness.
Time passes, and Lena’s dreaded sixteenth birthday finally comes. Lena’s fortune begins to spin like a top as she enters the next phase of being a tragic hero: the peripeteia. She is still unsure of if she’ll be Claimed Light or Dark, and she begins to panic over it. Seraphine, Lena’s estranged mother who had turned Dark years ago, tries to convince Lena to give in and turn Dark as well. When Lena does not give in, Seraphine stabs Ethan and he dies. Lena, horrified, uses her Natural powers to stop the very flow of time so that she can make a deal. She uses the Book of Moons — the very thing that cursed her family so many years ago — to revive Ethan at the cost of someone else’s life. In this way, Lena is able to reverse her own fortune, but thinking that she has the power to bring the dead back to life ends up being her hubris — excessive self-confidence that violates the bounds set for humans. Her wish appears to be granted as Ethan wakes up, but the cost is greater than she anticipated. The Book of Moons chooses her dear Uncle Macon as the price and he dies. Lena’s slow realization that she inadvertently killed her uncle breaks her emotionally, and she is filled with guilt, signalling her anagnorisis. As she withdraws into herself, her actions pave the way for the events in the next book, Beautiful Darkness.
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For more on Aristotle’s tragic hero: