Two of the most important aspects of storytelling are character development and character growth. While they are related, there are significant differences in the two concepts as well; characters need to have some level of development before they can truly grow. However, a well-developed character can end up fairly static and unchanging (and in turn risk becoming uninteresting). The converse is harder to prove in the story; if there is no firm concept of a character’s motivations and personality, actual character growth tends to be difficult to determine.
In many ways, Gunnerkrigg Court’s Antimony Carver spent the entire first year at school revealing her background and fundamental aspects to her before shifting gears to her growth as a person. Early on, Antimony was a fairly emotionless girl; it would not be until the chapter A Handful of Dirt that we’d come to realize that Animony wasn’t emotionless… she was in shock over the death of her mother. Even with that moment of grief, Antimony was still fairly withdrawn and reserved.
Still, some initial growth was visible. You can watch Antimony’s progress as she slowly recovers from the loss of her mother through the physical contact she initiates with her best friend Kat. Indeed, even before she cried by Kat’s side under the cherry tree, she was coming to the defense of her friend; using a judo throw to stop the antagonistic behavior of a classmate, comforting Kat by telling her she has a lovely nose after another classmate insulted her, and so on. Kat is in some ways a replacement for the family Antimony has lost, and she is quite protective of her friend.
This tendency toward physical contact appears to be a carryover from her relationship with her mother, Surma. Even when Surma was sick in the hospital, she wasn’t shy at holding her daughter close… and this tendency toward physical expressions of love is something that has manifested in Antimony as she recovers. One touching example happened at the end of the school year with Antimony reaching out and taking her friend’s hand as they talked in her room. While shippers wanting to pair anything that moves (and some things that don’t) might see this as the blossoming of young lesbian love, I suspect it is something much simpler: a bond of sisterhood between two girls who are best friends.
Antimony has also started to open up more with the new school year. She has shown a recent mischievous streak in her, in teasing Kat over her crush on her parent’s friend (and their teacher), Mr. Eglamore and in siccing Reynardine (a mischievous spirit that inhabits a stuffed wolf doll she owns) on several youths verbally antagonizing her and Kat. Indeed, the latter incident is troublesome in that it shows an expansion of Antimony’s tendency to break rules. We’ve caught her cheating by copying her friend’s science homework, leaving school bounds without permission, stealing a childhood picture from her best friend’s parents, and more.
Perhaps part of this was a result of Mr. Eglamore’s own behavior toward Antimony; when he punished Antimony for leaving the school bounds without permission, he told Antimony that her own mother broke the rules. The difference was that Surma didn’t get caught. When Antimony was told that, she scolded Eglamore for telling her this… but she still took it to heart. It’s not yet clear if Antimony is rebelling in homage to her mother, or out of a disdain for the adults who appear incompetent and who have proven unable to protect her or her mother.
Character growth doesn’t need to be positive. Much as a cancer grows yet kills, so too can character growth be unhealthy for the character. What will be telling is Kat’s own reaction to Antimony’s actions. She looked shocked at Antimony siccing Reynardine… and both her parents are teachers, and authority-figures. If her own best friend, the girl Antimony thinks of as a sister disapproves of these actions, it could temper Antimony’s own acts of rebellion. But whatever happens, seeing Antimony unbend enough to tease and have fun is a welcome change from a young girl who once hid her pain behind an unemotional mask.