There’s a lot to be said about writing flaws into characters, which is why I won’t try to say it all here. I’m still learning how to do this and I’d like to say I’m still improving. Let’s talk about Matthieu for a bit.
Now at the beginning at the story, he’s roughly the equivalent of a college freshman who’s taken a single philosophy/psychology/religion class and now thinks that he has all the answers. This is apparent in the first couple chapters, it’s annoying, and that’s OK, because this belief of his is more often than not contradicted by what he encounters rather than supported, which would lead people to believe that I think he’s always in the right. He’s not, and that I think is the essence of character flaws: shortcomings are given appropriate consequences, not pats on the back. The events that follow only set him on a path farther and farther from his comfort zone, until he ends up in completely different circumstances than anything he’s prepared for.
He also has issues with anger, which begin to emerge later as he feels increasingly that control over the course of his life is slipping away from him, only to place him in the hands of others. This is a guy who planned out his life from an early age and built all his expectations around this idea, only to be left without a leg to stand on when his home was destroyed. The long process of coping with this loss of control leads him to ponder what it means to be free in a world full of people and institutions who want to use him for their own purposes.
That’s not to say he’s entirely useless or always wrong. What he does have right, like the process of learning a language when he was taught Vauish, comes in handy later for a number of reasons. Years of observing his father taught him how to negotiate, which is a necessary skill for anyone but especially a merchant’s son who could have to fall back on the trade if things don’t work out at the university. His impulse to help others falls somewhere in between self-preservation and generosity, which is reasonable for someone roaming a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with religious fanatics and thieves. It’s probably the same spectrum we fit into as well, hopefully minus the Renaissance-meets-Mad Max vibe.
In the end, his struggle comes down to his desire to be useful without being used; to contribute without being disposable.