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Hate: Raising the Poison Tree

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 16, 2019
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With Valentine's day just behind us and a lot of talk of love, I thought I'd take a look on the exact opposite of love and affection- how do we write and display hatred in characters? How do characters hate, and what's the difference from rage?

In my opinion, it's all in the motivation which in turn controls the manifestation of things.

Hatred in a character can take many forms but in the end, it comes down to this one emotion: envy, jealousy wrapped up in inferiority.

The person that hates primarily feels inferior to the hated individual. There is a very real conviction that he/she will never be able to reach/become/acquire/enjoy things that the hated individual has/is, or appears to have/be. From this conviction, stems the poison that gives rise to the poison tree, so to speak.

Additionally to this feeling of inferiority, the person that hates feels that the hated individual is an obstacle to whatever the personn that hates wants- money, fortune, fame, a significant other, recognition, acceptance… you name it, the hated person has it, and the person who hates feels they can never have it as long as the hated one is there. And because they feel that they can never compete and win against the hated person (since they feel inferior), then they develop resentment and feelings of being wronged or unfairly treated, and this festering combination of thoughts and emotions is the poison tree.

Why did I identify the feelings of inferiority as the root of the poison tree?

Because if that isn't there, if the person does not feel inferior to that other individual, then they will not envy him/her (at least not maliciously), and they will not feel that they cannot attain what the other individual has. They will feel powerful enough to create a similar opportunity and similar fortunate events for themselves as what they have seen and liked in the other individual's, that doesn't end up being hated.

How then, is all of that complex that (usually) takes years to fully take root and develop manifesting into hate?

The person that hates simply seeks to remove the hated individual from the playing field so that they can get what they want. But because of that inferiority they feel, they go about it in indirect, undermining manners, and end up being more and more engaged in fouler and fouler play.

Hate always involves at least some level of infatuation, and twisted admiration for the hated individual, object, concept or generally abstract idea. It also involves a big sensation of threat regarding the hated person/idea/concept/country/etc, whether it's acknowledged or not.

What then, is its difference to rage?

Rage is simply intense anger. People that hate and people that don't hate can feel it and manifest it- it's always the result of a specific event or set of events, usually hurtful in some way, rather than a combination of festering emotions over time. Rage can be very dangerous, but usually it isn't as dangerous as hate because due to its intensity, most of the times it's very obvious. Hatred, on the other hand, has far bigger potential in being hidden until it's too late to react to it.

A person that hates isn't necessarily a villain in a story, or even an antagonist. It can very well be the hero or the protagonist- but when hate manifests, the behaviors are always malevolent. If a ‘good guy’ character harbors hate, then there's a very high risk of them becoming villainous without realising it, exactly due to hate, because in the one instance/context of whatever it is they hate, they will employ indirect means and foul play to get what they want, rather than straight up confront the situation.

A hero that hates is very prone to a “what have I done?” type of scene. A villain always harbors (and nurtures) hate, often enhancing it with more things to hate, one often more ludicrous than the other (especially when they get frustrated in their attempts to succeed).

Finally, it goes without say that hatred is taught- from bad parenting to bad social circumstance to bad experiences and learning history, a character must have had enough chance for the poison tree to take root and grow in them, like those fungi that grow out of the dead shells of ants.

What do you think? Do you have any character that hates (rather than just be enraged at someone/something)?

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Special thanks to Pit-Face for inspiring this article!

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anonymous?

irrevenant at 10:37PM, Feb. 25, 2019

Hmm. I was prepared to disagree with you and say that when the evil army destroys that what you hold dear you aren't hating them through envy. But thinking about it, you probably hate them in significant part because you fear and despise the power they have over your life and the things you care about. And I guess that counts as envy and inferiority.

Banes at 5:37PM, Feb. 17, 2019

Very interesting! I'd never heard it put that way, with inferiority as the root of hatred. Makes a lotta sense! s'why NOBODY hates me!

Kou the Mad at 1:33AM, Feb. 17, 2019

Thank your for reminding me of the horror that is Cordyceps.

JaymonRising at 10:42AM, Feb. 16, 2019

@lothar yup, just as there's a difference between stalking someone and "never giving up on someone". Yet by doing the former you did give up on them, you're just in agressive denial by being violently sarcastic about it.

usedbooks at 4:18AM, Feb. 16, 2019

It's really hard to write emotions that one doesn't experience. I never know if I'm doing it right. :P I do have a character who hates. Raidon hates several characters, particularly his boss Dirk, his coworker Jack, and his subordinate Valentine. He has rage issues with others too (like Yuki and Violet and Meredith). His hot emotions are basically his shameful secret as a man who tries very hard to appear level-headed. He is the angriest character. (Fudo has rage too, but I don't think he hates. He's just really pissed off by the assholes of the world.)

usedbooks at 4:11AM, Feb. 16, 2019

I don't believe I've ever felt hatred, can't even say I feel anger much (I can't recall last time I was angry). In school, I remember a girl threatening me once. I felt so bad that I upset her like that. I never knew how to make it right. I always feel awful when I see people being terrible. But I always feel like I wish they would get better, that something must be really wrong with them for them to feel that level of insecurity/fear/defense.

lothar at 2:22AM, Feb. 16, 2019

The opposite of love is not hate. Its apathy.

JaymonRising at 1:28AM, Feb. 16, 2019

On one hand I want to disagree with your opinion on hate being twisted admiration, but then it occurred to me: if it weren't true, we'd still have John Lennon. :(


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