American Gods: Why is Shadow not alive?

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American Gods: Why is Shadow not alive?

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mar 11, 2014, 3:24 am

In the women warriors thread and in conversations in other groups, multiple people have remarked on how Shadow does not feel alive. The other characters even remark on it, calling him a man-shaped hole in the world. He hardly reacts to the things happening around himand seems more a vessel to carry us from place to place than an actual character. Why do you think is that, and how do you feel about it?

Personally, I don't really know why this is. I've heard people say he is in shock, but according to Laura, this state has existed before all the weird stuff started happening. Plus, if it had been shock it would have been nice it he could have gotten over it at some point. Whatever the reason for Shadow's flatness, I can't really like it. For me characters are important, and in American gods, none of the characters feel real. Which would have been ok if at least Shadow was someone I could relate to, but alas. No such luck...

mar 11, 2014, 11:19 am

Well, while reading the book, I had a nice little theory worked out as to why he was so shadow-like, but when I finished it I discovered that was not the way Gaiman saw it. Which is why I was so very disappointed in the end.

I am not expert enough in the craft of writing to know what makes the difference between a shadow character and a full-blooded one which you love or hate. Wednesday had more depth though. Is it dialogue? Is it what they do? I'm thinking of some of my best beloved characters and the contrast between them and Shadow, and it seems they talk more, become involved in the solutions to problems, fight against them, and we see some of their inner struggles with situations or themselves.

So did Gaiman do this on purpose? If so, why? That's what I don't get, I thought I knew because I expected a different ending, but that fizzled, and now I don't know why he would have purposely done this.

mar 11, 2014, 11:54 am

Shadow is literally the hero archetype. The course of American Gods follows his evolution into a fully realized self.

From an intro to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, describing the monomyth in a nutshell:

"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."

Redigerat: mar 11, 2014, 2:48 pm

>3 lorannen: But that's just the thing, he didn't feel like a fully realized self, even at the end. He felt like someone half asleep. Plus, even if you evolve, that doesn't mean you cannot be a real person beforehand, does it?

>2 MrsLee: I'm not sure if you've mentioned it in one of the other discussions before, MrsLee, but which ending and theory did you have?

mar 12, 2014, 12:00 pm

>4 zjakkelien: I thought it would tie into the Native American mythology in a more concrete way. Was thinking Shadow would find that he was descended from the original peoples and would be the voice of the Land. That would give him power and insight and wisdom and I don't know what. I thought it would make me love him, I guess. I was thinking that part of his reserve was from being from that culture, where it can be rude to react emotionally or give a quick answer.

Gaiman took it beyond the original peoples to show that everyone is a newcomer to this land? I suppose that's what he was doing, showing how the original ones came with gods who are forgotten, and even the people we call "Native" Americans came here from elsewhere originally. In my mind, although he tried hard to give the Land a voice and personality, it didn't come off well. The ending was very confused in my mind.

That may be just me. I like resolved endings, and this one just wasn't.

mar 12, 2014, 2:28 pm

Interesting. I thought Shadow did in fact grow quite a bit. He got through prison laying low. He got through the gates of that hell straight into such a weird situation--most couldn't have made it, I don't think. But slowly, he woke up. No spoilers here (and I forget how to avoid them), so I thought the ending showed the evolution of him to a real person. Ironic though it was.

Redigerat: mar 12, 2014, 2:32 pm

>5 MrsLee: I found the book so fascinating because it did not rest in only Native American spirituality...rather it touched on seemingly every way that humanity has envisioned God....even though some were harder to comprehend at first. This land has always seemed to be the promised land for one group or another.

mar 15, 2014, 4:24 am

I saw Shadow as a regular guy, one with average or below average intelligence. He just didn't seem to question things enough for my liking...just accepting things were as they were and went along with it. That is why, I think, I liked him more at the beginning of the book than at at any other time (the first 100 pages or so).

>6 kaulsu: I thought he grew too. But not that much at all, and not enough to warrant his being the hero in all this.

Redigerat: mar 16, 2014, 3:02 pm

Shadow reminded me of Odysseus/Ulysses in that he was not the master of his own fate but reacted to forces placed on him by others. In this case - his father, Odin.

The definition of a hero as named in #3 above works for me in this book. Shadow is a hero in the same sense as is Odysseus in that regard.

Redigerat: mar 26, 2014, 10:03 pm

>2 MrsLee: Author intent doesn't matter. If you saw the book some way, that's a perfectly valid interpretation, even if that's not how the author intended it. Personally, I love your interpretation!