The centerpiece of our first and third anthologies is the iconic hero: the serial character who does not undergo a story arc, but instead remains steadfast against pressure to change. Instead, the iconic hero changes the world, resolving disorder and solving problems.
A character can conform to this pattern without having multiple adventures. You don’t see it often, because readers and viewers expect the protagonist of a standalone work to be a dramatic hero, who does transform.
Ree Dolly, the heroine of the book and movie Winter’s Bone, proves the point.
Ree remains determined and true to her goals throughout as she deals with the disappearance of her meth-cooker father, and the threat that bail bondsmen will claim the family homestead. The people in her father’s criminal orbit keep discouraging her, and she keeps at them, until she solves the central problem.
Were author Daniel Woodrell to choose to write a follow-up novel, Ree Dolly could easily become a serial iconic hero according to the classic pattern. Until then, she’s an example of a standalone protagonist who follows the iconic hero template.
Mattie Ross (True Grit) is another young woman protagonist of a novel and recent Oscar-buzzed film characterized by her preternatural steadfastness. She however more clearly undergoes an arc, from innocence to experience, as marked by a serpent’s bite.