Analyzing “The Antagonist” through a Reader Response perspective.

According to Chegg.com, Reader Response Theory can be defined by “A school of literary criticism that ignores both the author and the text’s contents, confining analysis to the reader’s experience when reading a particular work”(Chegg). Without the reader, the author’s text would have no meaning, and this would mean all books and writing would have no message. Therefore, the role of a reader is just as important as the role of the author.

A-Readers-Lens-and-Baggage-Framed-copy
Illustration presenting the idea that the reader has the lens, which they look through to analyze their chosen work. As well, they have their baggage. This baggage is where they store their ideas on the book, but can also be described as a Reader Response. 

While reading the first section of The Antagonist by Lynn Coady, I felt as though this novel is very easy to relate to. The story so far has a man, Gordon Rankin (“Rank”) who has been keeping a deep secret for many years of his life. Rank had a very trusted friend throughout high school, who was the only one of his peers who knew this secret. Twenty years later, Rank discovers his trusted friend has published a novel confessing his secret and forcing him to confront his tragic story that he has tried to bury for so long. So far in the novel, the high school scene is very similar to the modern day high school scene. There are many cliques and groups, who all play a part in Rank’s story. Rank, being the antagonist, tells his story in first person, through a series of email’s being sent to his old trusted friend Adam. I think this way of telling his story gave Rank the opportunity to tell his story the right way, and also give him the chance to explain how he felt in all scenarios that were mentioned in Adam’s published book.

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In Chapter One, Rank explains some back story of his life, to help readers get a better understanding once the story of the book comes out. I find Rank is not to fond of his father compared to his mother, as he introduces them by stating “There was a dad, there was a mom. You know this too, approximately. The dad was a prick, the mom was a goddess. Gord and Sylvie” (Coady, 9). He also says she passed away, but does not tell readers how or when it happened. I believe Rank is keeping many important topics from his life stalled from the readers, as he may want them to hear Adam’s story first, and then clarify in the end.

This first section so far has definitely created some questions. As to what Rank’s big secret is, why Adam had the motive to publish his book after being very close friends with Rank throughout high school and college, and what Rank will do to clarify to the world his real story. In addition to the many questions that have developed, an effective reader will start to analyze the story. For example, when Rank describes his mother, Sylvie, as a beautiful goddess and someone whom he was very close with. However, readers know from the beginning of the novel, she has passed away. This may provoke some feelings from the reader. Being that she has passed away, readers are also searching for signs and clues in the reading to discover what happened to Sylvie. Furthermore, his anger with Adam has readers questioning what Rank will do to confront him about his book. As stated in one of Rank’s email’s, “You have taken something that was mine and made it yours. Without even asking. Like if you had said to me, You know what I think about you, Rank? I think you are a dangerously unbalanced thug with an innate criminality nestled somewhere in your genetic soup. Which I assume has resulted from the early death of your sainted mother and subsequent oppression and, I’m guessing, abuse at the hands of your cartoon villain father” (Coady, 11). This direct confrontation from Rank at the beginning of the novel has reader’s questioning; are these assumptions true?

As a final point, a very important question is; who is the Antagonist? Lynn Coady has made this the title of her best selling novel for a reason, and this is for readers to figure out why. An Antagonist can be described as “a person who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another; opponent; adversary” (Dictionary.com). Considering the information reader’s have been provided so far in the novel, I believe Gordon Rankin can take the title of the Antagonist, right beside Adam, the Protagonist. Although Adam is not mentioned in the novel and may not be considered the “Main Character”, Adam has triggered this situation Rank has been put in, and is in disagreement with Rank about the novel he has written.

Overall, the first portion of The Antagonist has given reader’s a glimpse of the story behind Rank and his life growing up. I am in suspense about what will happen next in this suspenseful novel.

Work Cited

“Antagonist”. The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company. 16 Apr. 2017. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/antagonist&gt;.

Lynn Coady . The Antagonist . Toronto, ON : House of Anansi Press Inc., 2012. Print.

“Reader Response Lesson.” Chegg. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.