Every Good Protagonist Needs a Particular Friend

And in Jack Mallory’s case that friend is Josiah Smith, a “cagey old bastard,” as another character describes him. However, their first encounter, which took place when Jack was a mere boy, was anything but friendly:

[Jack]…leapt toward Smith on the lower steps, swinging his knife toward the man’s dirty, bearded face. But his blade struck only air as the wiry Smith snaked away from the blow and kicked Jack’s feet out from under him. Jack fell; the blade’s tip buried in the wooden step. Smith’s foot slammed down on his wrist, popping his fingers open from the handle. Jack grabbed for the weapon with his other hand, but Smith swiped up the knife and kicked him, flinging him backward—dazed…

Circumstances following the above scene force the two characters together, and during seven years of shared imprisonment they forge a lasting bond. Smith serves as a father figure to Jack as well as a brother, the only person whom Jack truly trusts. While Jack is often brash, Smith is there to rein him in and offer sage advice–not that Jack always heeds that advice. 😉

Jack’s narrative supplies the reader with an early description of Smith in The Prodigal:

Smith’s sharp blue eyes matched a cloth tied around his head, pushed back from his low forehead, undoubtedly worn to protect his head with its wiry black hair from the tropical sun. Jack guessed him to be around his father’s age…mid-forties. His broad, sun-bronzed face was weathered, his beard short and unkempt, a feature that Jack figured was most responsible for the fierceness of Smith’s appearance, for his eyes did not hold the same innate cruelty and masochism seen in some of the other [men aboard the Horizon].

I think what I enjoy most about Smith is his ability to get inside Jack’s head like no one else. Through their interactions the reader is able to really understand Jack’s feelings and motivations, sometimes even more so than when the point of view is from Jack’s own thoughts. And Smith always manages to deliver some funny comment, often at Jack’s expense, to lighten situations. As a conscience and a protector, Smith is always there to make sure our protagonist does not lose sight of what is truly important.

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