*SPOILERS FOR ‘The Way of Kings’, ‘Words of Radiance’ and ‘Oathbringer’ AHEAD!!*
Holy shit I’m talking about a book character! These last few weeks have been ones of stride!
‘The Stormlight Archive’ series has an incredible cast of characters, each one worthy of their own analysis! Going into this, I thought I would have a hard time picking which one to dissect first. But then I thought about it for ten seconds and I realized something: there was no way in hell that I couldn’t talk about Kaladin first!
Of all the characters in these books, Kaladin seems to be the one that Brandon Sanderson likes to bully the most! Trying to put together a single ‘Wound’ is impossible, considering how fucked up his life has been! He is gruff, kind, powerful, and horribly depressed. As a protagonist, he is one of the best the series has to offer!
The Wound: A Brother Lost
Like I said in the last paragraph: Kaladin’s life is fucked up! He watched his friends be slaughtered by the man he saved, was branded a slave, forced to carry bridges on constant suicide runs and emotionally broken. On the surface, selecting one clear ‘Wound’ seems impossible.
But Kaladin’s wound is quite clear. One word, one name: Tien.
As a boy, Kaladin found light thanks to his little brother Tien. Then, when the Brightlord of his town sent him off to war, Kaladin followed after to protect him. Unfortunately, Kaladin failed. He watched his little brother die right in front of him.
This wound deeply affected Kaladin for the rest of his life. Now, not a day goes by that Kal doesn’t try to help people! Be they an innocent person or a member of his Bridge Crew, Kaladin is always putting himself out there for others. He failed his little brother; he refuses to fail anyone else.
Which makes it all the more heartbreaking when the people he loves die.
The Want and the Lie: A Hero Chosen By Honor
Kaladin has numerous goals over the course of the series. In ‘The Way of Kings’, he wants to protect his Bridge Crew and escape from the war camp. In ‘Words of Radiance’, he wants to protect Dalinar and defeat the Assassin in White. Then, in ‘Oathbringer’, he wants to find a peaceful end to the war so humans and Parshmen alike can live in peace.
His goals are always the same: protect as many people as he can.
You may think this is a problem. If you read my dissection of Ruby Rose of RWBY fame, then you’re likely thinking that I’m going to criticize Kaladin for having a broad, uninteresting and intangible goal. All he wants is to help people. But let me explain why it works for Kaladin.
First of all: the Wound. There is a clear and powerful motivator for Kaladin’s behaviour rooted in his backstory. It wouldn’t make sense for him to have a more tangible goal, given how his life has played out.
Second: he isn’t focused on the long term. All of his objectives are short-term. Keep his crew alive long enough to escape, protect Dalinar from assassins, find a way to keep his Parshem friends and his new friends on the Wall Guard from killing each other. His goals are interesting because they’re attainable, given how short-term they are.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Kaladin’s Want falls perfectly into place with his Lie.
Kaladin believes that he has to save everyone around him all the time. He has to do whatever he can, especially when he discovers his powers as a Radiant, to protect everyone else. If something bad happens that he could have stopped, it’s his fault. He has to save everyone, and if he doesn’t: he’s failed.
What Kaladin doesn’t realize is that he isn’t a god. No one can save everyone, no matter how powerful they may be. Sometimes, you need to know who you can and can’t save. You have to live with that. It’s just as his father said: “You need to grow calloused to it.”
Unfortunately for Kaladin, he doesn’t know how to do that. His heart is too big and pure.
The Need: Someone to Save You
Kaladin lives his life to protect others. He often puts his own health and happiness aside to help those around him. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that other people are just as capable as he is. Sometimes, he needs to be saved just as badly as other people need him to save them.
We see this come to a head in ‘Oathbringer’. After losing both his Wall Guard friends and Parshmen friends, Kaladin is left broken once again. If Adolin weren’t there to help him, he likely would’ve stood alone until he died.
Then again in the finale of the book. He’s struggling to say the Fourth Oath, especially since everything is falling apart. In his moment of weakness, he breaks down and gives up. Then Dalinar brings the three realms together, saving Kaladin from a trio of descending Fused and his own darkness.
Kaladin needs to loosen up. He needs to accept that he can’t save everyone. Sometimes, he needs someone to save him! We see it with Shalan in the chasm during ‘Words of Radiance’, when she shows him that people can still smile despite the darkness in their past. We see it with Adolin in ‘Oathbringer’. Hell, we even see it with Syl and Bridge 4 in ‘The Way of Kings’!
Will Kaladin let go of his past and loosen up? Well, we don’t know! The series isn’t done yet (and likely won’t be for a long fucking time). But I am super excited to see if he will or won’t!
There are a lot of great characters in ‘The Stormlight Archive’, each of them worthy of their own analysis! But out of all of them, I have a hard time putting any of them above Kaladin! His scenes have always been the most compelling for me!
Though Dalinar does come close. And Adolin. The only one who doesn’t come close is Shalan. But she does try!
I guess what I’m saying is:
Go read ‘The Stormlight Archive’ series. Which I have just spoiled to high hell. Sorry about that!