|According to Jack Miles, |
even He changes.
To me, it depends greatly on the kind of character, circumstance and length of the novel. Flowers for Algernon without character development is a ridiculous idea. He has to change - the development is the plot, the gimmick, the engine for social criticism and introspection, and for the experiment of the prose. Its fame is largely from readers having strong reactions to the character development, and whether they prefer his rise or fall in intellect, or hopefully, having deeper reactions than just "liking" it.
That extreme example points us toward how good change typically works: being appropriate to the personality and circumstance. I don't want Bilbo Baggins giving into blood lust and singing war songs. He adapts to his circumstances, is forced to assert himself more, grows confident and capable, but is still timid, anxious, and by the end of the The Hobbit, is actually opposed to the greed that stirred him in the beginning. He is a better person for going through this arc, and the novel far much richer for it. If he became a ranty pacifist, it would have gone too far in that direction. If he became just another warrior Thorin could rely on, it would have gone in a less imaginative and compassionate direction and damaged the book. Bilbo goes through changes that we buy and that help the book.
Brad wondered if audiences didn't only like certain kinds of change, specifically positive change. Certainly Bilbo changes towards the heroic or the moral. Yet audiences love Batman and Breaking Bad, which are respectively about an innocent boy becoming destructively consumed with revenge, and a cancer patient becoming a meth tyrant. A frightening number of Breaking Bad fans are still rooting for Walter White in the final season, more attached to him than ever. My brother is one of them.
While I want Walter to fall from disgrace, his development has been superb and worthy of the attention its gotten. Breaking Bad is originally about Walter White's transformations, and the stages of his character are earned. That's what I want. Gandalf can be the same guy all the time for his role and his personality traits, and I won't mind. Lupin the 3rd can always be that lecherous thief. But an affecting novel usually puts its characters through some sort of development, or at least reveals more of who and how they are over time. The notion of readers being opposed to character development scares me more than any change itself.