I see your Kurtz and raise you Ender. Which, given the story Ender was in, is more apropos I think. (See spoiler immediately below for Ender-fueled rant).
But to say that Parson is Ender, or Kurtz, or Dorothy, is to miss the forest for the trees. Parson is a picaresque character (hm? incorrectly deployed terms?)
meaning someone who is thrust away from their zone of comfort, a stranger in a strange land as you say, where they will experience new things that will make them "grow", obtain better knowledge of themselves, the world, and their place in it.
Yes, the spark that starts the fire is external (it always is
), but in the end the tests and the ways to pass them are the character's own, their choices. Parson is as much, or more (but about that, later) of a deliberating agent as Jillian. He decides that surrender is a cop out. He wants to see the battle through. At the end, the volcano is not his choice
(Erfworld is weird like that), however the precision Fuck strike is. Yeah, he ended up being a bit more emotional than healthy about his part in the zombcano, but that was a deliberate decision to rebel against the world and the place it appointed for him, a rebellion brought forth by the realisation that he can no longer view Erfworlders as pawns in Heroes of Muscle and Moxie.
And make no mistake, this is actual growth. "Gamer for life" -> "this is booping hardcore, man" -> "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds". Parson made that step on his own. These little crazy people around him are people, he came to see. Not just stat collections.
(Debates about whether Parson's change in perspective are justified by the reality of Erfworld are postponed due to ill weather).
OTOH, Jillian. She always went were she pleased, befriended whom she pleased, fought whom she pleased, loved whom she pleased, Titans help her. As she informed Ansom, that one time. Becoming a Queen changed the influence, resources and authority she commands- and nothing else. Her character growth is just a sparkly hat with matching costume, for the character who just whisked Ansom of the Dead away would have done exactly the same, had her mercenary troop consist of Megalogwiffs.
Jillian's free-roaming spirit does challenge one aspect of Erfworld- almost everyone is the serf of someone above themselves- but that's like saying the Queen is challenging the Middle Age notion that everyone is poor. Like that Monty Python joke went, "how do you know he's the king?" "he doesn't have shit all over him".
True, Wanda is a slave to the Titans, Slately to ideology; so is Don. Tremennis is still trying to figure out what he's a slave to. As for Jillian, she's a slave to passion. Which, deliberate allusion to trashy lit intentional, is not the perfect place to be. Jillian's decision making process involves the attention span of a goldfish, which in fact makes her predictable. Everybody knew who she was going for when she left Wanda alone (if you- whoever is slogging through this rant- thought I was seriously suggesting Sylvia, Tremennis, then Big Fat Al ...). It makes her shallow, a mere stimulus-response machine, boring.
Her passionate goldfish nature also makes her petulant, and selfish, and all other attributes like that. Somebody truly unfit to wield influence on a large scale, when the only thing they really care about is their own person. Wanda, Don, Slately, Trem etc- they may all be deluded but they at least know that the world does not revolve around them, and some effort is needed to figure out where they stand, and where to go (taking the followers along).
So okay, Jillian is the crazy Royal, the Nero, the Caligula. Fine, why not, some (Lord Kasavin
) have said she's the villain of the piece, and that'd be great. But then, everybody loves Jillian. Some pine for her, some admire her, and the few who did disagree with her- well, they've got sequoias up their bums, and probably can't tie their own shoelaces and are stupid who cares about them. It's grating to see this character, precisely when we know that very few of her accomplishments are actually her own, get validated like that- "hey, the world DOES revolve around me!". I'm hoping this is a set-up. If so, it's very, very effective.
Enough tl;dr for now. Except for one more rant, hidden by a spoiler tag (not that it contains actual spoilers) in which I tackle Parson as Mary Sue Ender.
Mary Sue- I'm not using that term. But we can agree that Parson, by construction, is a wish-fulfilment fantasy. Nothing wrong with that, especially when said fantasy comes back to bite you, by showing that its fulfilment isn't all that cool. Less of a fantasy and more thought experiment eh?
The other fantasy I'm getting at is Parson as best warlord, and what that means. I've ranted before that it doesn't mean (just) "tactically innovative"; won't repeat that, but instead make a comparison with Ender, of Ender Saga fame.
In Ender's Game, a child (Ender) is made to be the most tactically brilliant mind, the best warlord ever. Humanity needs it, because a war against an alien race is going badly. In his training sessions of laser tag (which is more than it appears), Ender demonstrates a lot of tactical innovation; one time, he tells his team-mates to reinterpret "down" as the side of the room with the enemy flag. It's been years since I read it, I assure you it made loads of sense in context.
Anyway, that's not what made him great. Here's what did. One time at school, some bullies pick on him. So, he starts a fight with the head bully- and beats him to death. Without meaning to kill, exactly, but he did mean to inflict serious harm, to show that he is not to be messed with, to be left alone. Spoiler alert, he gets to do that on a much bigger scale by the end of Ender's Game, proving that if there's one principle behind the best warlord ever, it's credibly showing your opponents that "where I can go, you cannot follow".
Ender, and Parson, eventually do just that. And both recoil from the enormity of what they've done; now that you've gone, can you come back? Ender attempts this over Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide (which I'm going to reread; I lost track of the series after that, but frankly when I read those I felt the story was done). Parson ... we'll see.
tl;dr: you are teh worng
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.