“Does such a thing as 'the fatal flaw,' that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn't. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.”
… so states Richard Papen, the protagonist of The Secret History, during the first chapter. And it's a wonderful question. Is 'the fatal flaw' really existent in reality? Are we each tainted with this one, definite blemish? And, perhaps more intriguing, what's my own fatal flaw? Is it Hamlet's indecisiveness? Jo March's hot temper? Ned Stark's honour? Or am I flawed in many other ways?
Perhaps we should start with "the fatal flaw" itself. It can be defined as "a limitation, imperfection, problem, phobia, or deficiency which holds a character back". To use a well-known example, Harry Potter has one defining fault: the need to constantly save people. And this results in rash decisions and inevitable danger (e.g. his quick and irrational decision to save Sirius at the MoM). And, in almost every character-driven novel, this flaw will be there.
And why's that? Because flaws and imperfections are an essential part of the human condition. Faultless characters are unrealistic, simple as.
And so, "the fatal flaw" is pretty much essential throughout literature. And yet, I can't help but question whether this is an accurate portrayal of reality? If I was to ask myself the same question as Richard Papen, I'd give a resounding 'no'. If I was asked to name my own "fatal flaw", I wouldn't be able to name one defining flaw, but a collection of smaller, more complex imperfections. To me, "the fatal flaw" seems an exaggeration – an exaggeration which seems realistic only in the context of fiction.
So yes, "the fatal flaw" makes for brilliant literature. But when it comes in to reality? Part of me holds the belief that, if anything, "the fatal flaw" is flawed by itself; perhaps, in reality, nobody has a defining fault, but a multitude of smaller, more intricate and complicated flaws. Just a thought, really. It could be my "fatal flaw" is just overthinking everything.