According to Dictionary.com, the definition of a villain is “the person or thing responsible for specified trouble, harm, or damage.” Based upon this definition, the character Requiem from the novel Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila does seem like a villain. He is someone who is responsible for the trouble, harm, and damage of many people on many occasions. For example, it is made clear in chapter 17 subtitled “collector of nudes,” that Requiem is a very corrupt man (102). He is said to have “nude photographs of some two hundred and fifty tourists” and he uses this power over them as leverage to obtain money and power in the City-State and Tram 83 (102). It understandable that blackmailing hundreds of people is a very evil thing to do.
While it is easy to simply label someone, in this case a character, as evil and move on, is it ever really that simple? While there is no denying that Requiem has committed villainous acts and created evil situations for many of the people who visit the City-State and he does these things in order to obtain power, but does he have many other options in his society?
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of a victim is “a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency.” Based upon this definition, I believe the character Requiem also seems to be a Victim. While his actions are not something of a victim, the reason why he must do these things are. Requiem has been living in a society for so long in which being aggressive, cruel, and breaking laws leads the doer power and accomplishment. While nobody is actually forcing him to do these nefarious things and he could choose other paths in order to provide for himself, that is not what he is being shown and taught every day living around and in Tram 83. Requiem is a victim of the situation and society he is in as he is forced to survive the best way he can by doing anything he can.
Though it may be hard to avoid seeing only the evil in Requiem when he is doing so much harm to so many people, it is important to step into his shoes in order to truly understand him and how he may also be a victim. Would we, ourselves be able to resist breaking laws and doing whatever we could to gain power? Or would we, like Requiem, see all of the lawbreaking and corruption around us and do whatever we believed was necessary to obtain the best life for ourselves.
Mujila, Fiston Mwanza, et al. Tram 83. Deep Vellum Publishing, 2016.