Human beings have never been as complex, or as deep, as the realist novel would have us believe. This concluding chapter reviews ways in which this insight, as pursued by the novels examined, can paradoxically open up new ways of reading novels more open-mindedly and perhaps even more generously. Flat Protagonists rebels against the long-established critical tradition of associating the interest and richness of novels with the complexity of their characters, whether this complexity is construed as radical alterity, sophisticated self-awareness, or depth. This countercurrent exposes the fault lines of the novel’s insistent faith in its protagonists’ significance. By following it—and highlighting the ontological and ethical doubts these fault lines raise—this project opens up a way in which the history of its genre, as well as its present-day critical uses, could be renewed and reappreciated.
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