The Skeptic

Question: In your article about character archetypes, the skeptic seems to take on a negative role as a character that the others will constantly have conflicting opinions with. Is this always true? A character that comes to mind is the character Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. He is skeptical of the plans and often falls into the archetype "Tempter" but he is, truly, in no way a "bad" character and possesses many other good qualities. Can you give me examples of other "skeptic" characters?


Answer: Skeptics are not necessarily bad. They can serve quite positively as the force that tries to stop other characters from getting carried away with a bad idea. Their skepticism can help others see through lies, find the flaws in their plans, and figure out what they really believe in.

Some examples:

Han Solo plays the role of Skeptic in the first Star Wars film (episode IV). He's constantly against every plan. He doesn't believe in the force. And sometimes he's right. For instance, when Luke tries to persuade him to help rescue the Princess, by pointing out that he wanted to be doing something, Han says, "Marching into the detention block was not what I had in mind." His concern is legitimate, and it prods Luke to refine his plan.

Starbuck, the first mate in Moby Dick, serves as a Skeptic. When he hears Captain Ahab's plan to hunt the white whale that bit off his leg, Starbuck points out, "Vengeance against a dumb brute...that simply smote thee from blindest instinct... seems blasphemous." He's right of course, and in this case he helps the reader to see Ahab's madness.

In the old Star Trek series, when Kirk wants to arm one faction on a primitive planet because he discovers the Klingon's are arming a different faction, McCoy takes on the role of Skeptic to warn him of the danger in this course of action. Even though Kirk doesn't take McCoy's advice, the exchange shows the audience that Kirk is not embarking on this plan lightly.

Does this mean Skeptics always are in conflict? Often they are. Just as there is frequently conflict between Protagonists and Antagonists, Reason and Emotion characters, Guardians and Contagonists.

Obviously, natural conflict exists between Skeptics and Sidekicks. For instance, Sam and Smeagle fight a lot as they play these roles while traveling with Frodo in Lord of the Rings. (In fact, I believe they switch roles a few times in their journey to Mordor.)

However, Skeptics are not always fighting Sidekicks. Sometimes the main character simply gets different advice or points of view from various characters and the conflict then takes place within the main character's mind. In some stories, you'll have a villain with a Sidekick and a hero keeping company with a Skeptic (or it could be the other way around) such that the Sidekick and Skeptic never meet.

Any character function or motivation can create conflict with its opposite. But there are also situations where it might compliment another motivation, or act as a catalyst. Skeptics can have friends as well as foes.

Comments for The Skeptic

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Jul 27, 2012
Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much! Your examples helped me a lot!

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