Two male protagonists that we have studied this semester who can be described as the orchids described above, are Henry Chinaski and John Laroche. An antihero is the protagonist of a story, but one who lacks the heroic qualities that accompany a normal protagonist. Commonly, protagonists are seen as brave, and they often have a strong sense of responsibility to themselves and their society. On the other hand, an antihero essentially displays opposite qualities of a protagonist. Antiheroes are promiscuous, isolated, and usually somewhat selfish (Williford, 2013). In a story line, an antihero plays an important role. Often times, the reader or viewer can relate to the antihero in some sense, as their personality allows us to sympathize with them.
We can essentially relate to the antihero on a more personal level than we could a typical protagonist. That being said, Susan Orlean’s description of the orchids encapsulates the definition of an antihero. The term “unplantlike” highlights the antiheroes’ fragmentation from social expectations and norms, and deception is often used by antiheroes—especially in Chinaski and Laroche. For example, Larcohe is highly capable of talking his way out of situations by using deceptive techniques. When caught taking orchids from private land, he is able to deceive the officer and leave the scene freely.
Chinaski uses deception as a tool to get with different women. In Factotum Henry’s ability to seduce and charm women into sleeping with him is a common occurrence, and is mentioned throughout the entire novel. Similarly, as stated in the prompt, Orlean is fascinated with the orchid’s ability to “adapt, survive, and to beguile”, all of which relate to the characteristics of an antihero. For example, Chinaski is able to survive in his environment despite never having a stable job or income, and he beguiles women on a daily basis. In addition, Laroche is able to adapt to his environment while still pursuing his passions, which is a difficult thing to do without conforming to societal expectations.
Similar to Chinaski, Laroche is also able to survive despite spotty employment, and he too beguiles people in order to get his way. In sum, the antihero of a film or novel is a significant part of a story line. These antiheroes allow readers and views to relate to them on a personal level, which in turn draws their interest deeper into the story as a whole. Orlean’s description of the orchid’s qualities are parallel to the qualities of an antihero. Henry Chinaski and John Laroche are prime examples of antiheroes, as their characters possess all of the fascinating aspects of Susan’s orchids. Their ability to adapt, survive, and beguile, as well as their uniqueness from the rest of society, is what makes these characters the perfect antiheroes—and perfect orchids.