The cult classic television show, Twin Peaks, features a group of ordinary small-town heroes who are trying to solve the murder of the popular high school student, Laura Palmer. One of these small-town heroes is Audrey Horne, a sultry and mischievous classmate of Laura’s. Audrey becomes involved with the case after developing a crush on the FBI agent who is investigating it, Dale Cooper, and she begins to spy for clues to help him. Audrey’s character aligns perfectly with Aristotle’s outline of a Tragic Hero, and she shows us an example of a YA heroine who doesn’t start out as a hero, but becomes one by learning from her mistakes and reforming her actions.
Aristotle’s Tragic Hero framework is largely concerned with the morality of a character. It focuses on characters who have some sort of moral defect or tragic flaw, called a hamartia, which ultimately leads to their downfall. The character will later have a self-realization, or an anagnorisis, and begin to understand their flaw and the consequences of it. Finally, the tragic hero’s story ends with a peripeteia, or a reversal of fortune.
Audrey’s hamartia is her trouble-making nature. In the Pilot Episode alone, she ruins one of her father’s million-dollar business deals by barging in on one of his meetings and telling his clients about Laura’s murder. When she meets Agent Dale Cooper in the same episode and decides to help him with the murder investigation, she is driven by the same rebellious and self-serving behavior.
Her anagnorisis doesn’t occur until Episode 8, after she decides to go undercover as a prostitute at the Canadian brothel connected to Laura’s murder, One-Eyed Jack’s. She gets the job there by blackmailing her interviewer, using a false name, and tying a cherry stem in a knot with her tongue, further emphasizing her mischevious nature. While there, she is almost raped by her father and then held hostage at the brothel, given forced heroin injections to keep her quiet. In a scene of self-realization, she admits that she’s in over her head and prays for some guidance to help her out of the situation she’s in.
After this incident is Audrey’s peripeteia, and her character develops from being a spoiled troublemaker to having a genuine desire to do good. She eventually becomes a businesswoman and an activist, getting involved in her father’s business and engaging in acts of civil disobedience. For example, in the final episode of season two, she chains herself to a local bank to protest its financial ties to a project that is destroying the forest.
Audrey’s story is significant because there is so much pressure nowadays for YA heroines to be perfect to the point of being almost supernatural. The freedom, power, and success that they emulate is positive and represents an ideal goal, but girls and women in real life have much more complex and dynamic experiences. Like other YA heroines, Audrey is brave, determined, and intelligent, but not inhumanly so, and she knows when it’s time to ask for help. She reminds us that sometimes we make mistakes, but we have to live through them, learn from them, and move on.