I don’t think most people understand him very well, and that is great.
Honestly, I hate when a main character is simple enough to be understood by everyone instantly. You don’t need to understand someone fully to relate to them, and if you did you probably wouldn’t. Call me a hipster (no, really, do so, I don’t take that as derogatory in any way) but whenever I comprehend something in its entirety I lose interest in it instantly and I think that is something I share with every creature that was ever alive. Think about what “boring” means in practice: devoid of actions or qualities that get your attention, and for something to stand out it takes one or more discrepancies from what is considered “standard”. I don’t think standards are bad because I need them and so do you, although how you use them is what matters: subverting or playing portions of them on purpose is where good fiction material lies.
The reason why I think people misunderstand him as a character is because they choose to believe him even when everything tells them to do otherwise.
Let’s think about this: pretty much everyone in his universe seems to think the boy is a liar, and while common sense is not the same as fact (hello there, flat earth) , it should make you wonder. After all, so far his is the only perspective you have of that world. Even if it doesn’t prove him as a complete liar, there is a moment in novel one that doesn’t show as much as rub on your face that he knows and can do more than he tells he can, but the only person I know that realized that inconsistency dismissed it as a plot hole. Which is sad, but then again there are people who still think the Lolita from Nabokov wasn’t corrupted to begin with so I guess it would be pretentious of me to expect any more than that. Truth be told, I am usually more grateful for the critics than most fans, but I’d be even more grateful if I actually had a reason to use plural to describe them when both sides are probably composed of one guy each.
On the other hand, I got amusing comments from different people who compare Shin-tsu to several different characters that had absolutely nothing to do with each other, although most of them were main characters. What this tells me is that I was able to do something right when it comes to writing a Main Character people can relate to without making him a complete normal person, but by making him a different sort of Everyman. And I was told that, despite making him a rich, good-looking, manipulative, chronically depressed, wussy polymath bastard, people still see themselves in him. They get sad with him, they laugh with him, they talk for two hours while most people don’t care and others get strangely aroused with him. The last one sounded kind of weird, but you get the point.
Even if you don’t.
Even if you don’t understand what the hell I’m talking about, you can relate to people connecting to characters because you too at some could connect to some extent. Even if you were never rich and miserable, you can relate to not ever being happy with the things you have even though everyone else would die to have them. Even if you were never scared of streets because of references to Evil Dead you made, you can relate to acting silly due to unfounded fears.
“Understanding” is different from “relating to”, for one implies complete comprehension of a scenario or situation. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. You were right as a teen to think your parents did not understand you, but you most likely didn’t understand them either. The best you could do, and if you haven’t, as long as they are alive there is still time, is to try and relate to them: it’s just a flawed approximation but you have no idea of how much it counts until you do.
So I can’t blame any of you, even though you all see things through his eyes (through tainted glass, but still); turns out not even I can understand him fully. To have been through all the crap I did and will put the character through, relating is the best I can do. To think the world is out to get you every day and still getting up in the morning whether it’s true or not, that I can understand.
And so can you.