One of the many jaw-dropping spectacles offered by the dumpster fire of the corrupt and incompetent Trump administration is seeing how low Rudy Giuliani (pictured above) can go.
Trump’s personal lawyer — like the president himself — is greedy, erratic, a liar, and a crook. What a comedown for someone lauded as “America’s Mayor” when he headed New York City at the time of 9/11.
Of course, Giuliani was overrated back then — and a stone-cold racist to boot. But, still, his reputation has fallen so precipitously since 2001 that calling him a clown in 2019 would be an insult to clowns.
Anyway, all that’s an introduction to the theme of this week’s blog post: fictional characters whose reputations sharply or somewhat decrease in a novel — whether deservedly so, a la the real-life Rudy G.; or wrongly so, like the protagonist in a book I read last week.
That was John Grisham’s page-turner The Racketeer, whose Malcolm Bannister attorney character is serving 10 years in prison for helping a client he didn’t know was taking part in criminal activity. Malcolm loses his freedom, his law license, his professional reputation, his wife and son, the regard of his retired state trooper father, and more. But Malcolm (who is African American) has some information that can get him out of jail, and we watch how that scenario plays out — a scenario that includes a really clever plot twist.
Hester Prynne of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter also loses her reputation in her 17th-century Puritan community — despite being a good, admirable person. Her “crime”? Having a child out of wedlock. Of course, that was a bigger thing back then than it is now, but the unkindness and hypocrisy of her not-without-sin neighbors is still pretty breathtaking. Plus the male in the sexual equation doesn’t face any public infamy, though he is wracked with guilt.
Now for a few fictional characters, like the real-life Giuliani, who deservedly lost their good names — with some deserving of a little sympathy and others not.
In Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret, the titular character has a sterling reputation in his household and the world before the (awful) titular secret is discovered.
Willie Stark is an idealistic lawyer early in Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men — but he becomes thoroughly corrupt after being elected governor. So Stark’s ethical reputation takes a big hit, though his part-real/part-fake populism keeps him relatively popular among some constituents.
Janine of Richard Russo’s Empire Falls divorces decent guy Miles to take up with local jerk Walt — and also becomes very conceited after losing a lot of weight. She’s doesn’t really become a bad person, but many in town (including the teen daughter of Janine and Miles) certainly lose some regard for her.
Gervaise of Emile Zola’s The Drinking Den is initially a hardworking woman who manages to open her own Paris laundry and also marries fellow teetotaler Coupeau. He’s a decent man, but goes downhill after being injured in an accident — becoming a lazy alcoholic and dragging Gervaise into that same lifestyle. Both lose their good names.
In the realm of less-realistic fiction, Quirinus Quirrell of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book has enough wizard-world standing to become a professor at Hogwarts. But he rashly put himself in a position to be controlled by Lord Voldemort for nefarious purposes, so QQ’s status — not to mention his chances of staying alive — hit rock bottom.
Can you name some characters who fit this post’s theme?
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — which takes a funny and admiring look at rec sports for kids in my town — is here.