Split characters?
June 7, 2005 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Any recommendations for books, movies or other where the main character is split – either along Freudian lines (Ego/Superego/Id) or just the simple Good Guy/Bad Guy divide (whether clearly stated or not)? [May contain mild spoilers on any number of things inside]

Inspired by the Calvin & Hobbes Fight Club analogy and a passage in Wonderboys (the book, not the movie) that talks about writers having to divide themselves, I've been looking for more examples of this division, particularly when the "bad" character is acting as the agent of repressed wish fulfillment of the "good" character.

It's a common device:
Cat & Girl, Calvin & Hobbes, FIGHT CLUB, WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY, The Dark Half RAISING CAIN, SECRET WINDOW, the Good Ash/Bad Ash scenes in ARMY OF DARKNESS, Samantha and Serena on "Bewitched", STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, you could even argue SIDEWAYS.

Can you think of any others?
posted by Gucky to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Fight Club
Panic Room (main character isn't split but 3 bad guys are id/ego/superego)
Lord of the Rings (gollum)
Elmer Gantry
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (maybe)
Mulholland Drive
3 Women
Lost Highway

Book: Sanner Darkly (pk Dick)
posted by dobbs at 12:57 PM on June 7, 2005

Carlito's Way
posted by neilkod at 12:59 PM on June 7, 2005

Rushdie's Satanic Verses plays the two main characters as both split internally and as two halves of a coin. Plus, it's an awesome book.
posted by saladin at 12:59 PM on June 7, 2005

Nabokov's Lolita.
posted by ursus_comiter at 1:01 PM on June 7, 2005

Although personally I hated it, American Psycho fits, I think.
posted by jennaratrix at 1:15 PM on June 7, 2005

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
posted by benightedly_heedful at 1:19 PM on June 7, 2005

As dobbs mentions, that division is pretty much what A Scanner Darkly is all about.

There's also Passing by Nella Larson. Lots of modern literature focuses on fractured identity, though.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:21 PM on June 7, 2005

Um, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
posted by librarina at 1:22 PM on June 7, 2005

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Psycho, The Three Faces of Eve, Night of the Hunter...

Here's a link to Disassociative Identity Disorder in Hollywood films.

There's also the deliberate manipulation of disassociative disorders, as in Primal Fear (Edward Norton) and Final Analysis (Kim Basinger).
posted by roundrock at 1:28 PM on June 7, 2005

Night of the Hunter and A Scanner Darkly are so, so good. I didn't see Mitchum's character in the former as having a split personality, though; I thought he was a mighty creepy guy who was good at tricking people.
posted by kenko at 1:36 PM on June 7, 2005

A lot of Kubrick's films deal with the duality of man (ex: Full Metal Jacket)
posted by Sloben at 1:39 PM on June 7, 2005

Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls by Matt Ruff.
posted by togdon at 1:40 PM on June 7, 2005

More recently...

Identity. Ten little Indians who all turn out to be personalities of a criminal.
posted by incessant at 2:07 PM on June 7, 2005

Me, Myself & Irene?

(yeah, shoot me)
posted by ODiV at 2:09 PM on June 7, 2005

Superman III.
You may shoot me as well.
posted by brownpau at 2:31 PM on June 7, 2005

Murakami Haruki's "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World." Although that's a spoiler.

(And this must be, what, the third time I've recced it on AskMe?)
posted by Jeanne at 3:03 PM on June 7, 2005

Haruki Murakami's "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World." Although that's a spoiler.

(And this must be, what, the third time I've recced it on AskMe?)
posted by Jeanne at 3:03 PM on June 7, 2005

Two-Face / Harvey Dent from Batman Forever fits your description perfectly.
posted by banished at 3:16 PM on June 7, 2005

There's an old sci-fi novel, The Triune Man, where the main character has MPD and through some device or other the distinct personalities - one good, one bad - become instantiated in different bodies. Towards the end of the book a third (the "true") personality emerges.
posted by zanni at 3:19 PM on June 7, 2005

(And this must be, what, the third time I've recced it on AskMe?)

Fourth now!
posted by Aknaton at 3:19 PM on June 7, 2005

Brecht - The Good Woman of Setzuan
posted by painquale at 3:50 PM on June 7, 2005

Hulk smash! (and Firestorm, and any of a number of other superhero comics characters.)

Crompton Divided, Robert Sheckley
Macroscope, Piers Anthony
Gun, with Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem
Steel Beech and Demon, John Varley (books from two different series)

And I could probably come up with a stack more science fictional examples if I sat here longer (Phil Dick's short stories alone would provide a bunch.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:51 PM on June 7, 2005

No one's mentioned Conrad's Secret Sharer?
posted by Eideteker at 3:54 PM on June 7, 2005

I'm a nerd for mentioning it, but Xenogears, for the original playstation (good luck finding it nowadays) has that kind of theme, and is one hell of a game, lasting something like sixty hours and with a storyline that's so intense you won't believe it when you're through.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 4:41 PM on June 7, 2005

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). That, of course, is a massive spoiler.

As the previous posts indicate, Philip K. Dick addressed this a lot. Minority Report (the movie too) has a dichotomy along much more conventional lines, whereas the dichotomy in VALIS is so severe as to almost be outside the bounds of your question.

Siegfried's fate at the hands of Hagen and Gunther in Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung (opera, books, movies, albums, etc).

Any werewolf tale.
posted by samh23 at 5:50 PM on June 7, 2005

The Machinist.
posted by McIntaggart at 4:23 AM on June 11, 2005

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