From Another Perspective: Five Novels and One Play about Supporting Characters in Our Favorite Stories

Earlier this week Beth asked what if our favorite stories were told to us from another perspective. Whose perspective and what stories would we like to hear again? Turning a tale on its ear is a pretty popular literary theme, so with the help of some discussion (both on and offline!), I’ve come up with this list of stories from a supporting character’s perspective.

Gertrude and Claudius

This was suggested by a friend and now that I know it exists I can’t wait to read it. Updike has said, “[he]sought to narrate the romance that preceded the tragedy.” This a prequel that tells us what was happening in Denmark prior to the arrival of the ghost-seeing Prince. Context is everything.

Wicked

Ah, the novel that everyone has been singing for a decade. This is the tale of The Wizard of Oz told from the perspective of the witch. In all honesty, I’ve not read this one. Or, seen the musical. But, I do know this: When we tell stories about “good” and “evil” we are make assumptions about what “good” and “evil” actually are. We know that Dorothy sees the Wicked Witch of the West as evil, but how can we know that Dorothy is telling us the whole story?

Lamb

This is the first novel on this list that takes a new perspective on the bible. We know a lot about the infancy of Jesus (stables, running from Client Kings, Wise men, etc) and we know a lot about the lead up to the crucifixion (fishing for men, flipping tables and beating money lenders, getting arrested, etc) but what do we know about the intervening years? The ones that aren’t really discussed in the new testament? Well, this novel attempts to fill that in providing tales from those missing years from the perspective of Jesus’s childhood friend Biff. Basically everything you need to know about this book is in this phrase: Jesus’s childhood friend Biff.

I’m not a fan of Jane Eyre, I’ll just admit to that now. I think Jane is kinda boring and Rochester is a horrible and stuffy human being. (Sometimes, it’s tough to say which of those is his biggest flaws.) But, my dislike of Rochester boils down to one key fact: Dude keeps a woman in his attic. Wide Sargasso Sea tells the story of Antoinette Cosway, the woman who will eventually become that woman in Rochester’s attic. Set in the Caribbean and drawing on the childhood memory of the author this tale attempts to give the Crazy lady in the attic a little more dimension.

The Red Tent

This is the tale of Dinah and it takes a look at ancient womanhood by exploring the lives of women referenced in the book of Genesis. Everybody knows the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But, what do we know about their wives and daughters (aside from who they married and who they birthed)? This is an interesting take on a religious text.

I hesitated to include this because I’ve already included Gertrude and Claudius but it is too enjoyable to give it a pass. This is the entire tale told in Hamlet from the perspective of two minor (and utterly bewildered) characters. Of course, we know from having seen Hamlet that this will all end in tragedy, but there’s a lot of comedy on the way to those two open graves.

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight came up in the comments so I felt that this needed to be mentioned. Stephenie Meyer posted a partial draft of the first part of Twilight from Edward’s perspective. I have such mixed feelings about these books that it is hard to comment on them. But, this one is up online for free, so that might be a point in its favor.

Do you have a favorite book that re-tells a tale from the perspective of another character? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “From Another Perspective: Five Novels and One Play about Supporting Characters in Our Favorite Stories

    • ya, me, too. but, that provides a little evidence for my assertion that Twilight from almost any other character’s perspective would be a tragic meditation on domestic violence. And, that would make one hell of a YA novel.

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