Polymath,polymath wrote:...Lord of the Rings too. Is Frodo appreciably changed, or is Middle Earth what's really changed?...
While your post was meticulously detailed as usual, I have to differ on LotR being an example of a static character changing the setting. Yes, Frodo certainly changed the setting, but he most certainly did not remain static in doing so. In fact, Frodo's evolution marked character development that is rarely so well realized in literature (usually because it requires an extremely lengthy narrative and is terribly depressing) - and I'm not talking about the ring's influence on him. I'm referring to Frodo's realization that, when everything was said and done, he had been so fundamentally changed he could see no possibility for happiness in anything ever again. After all he'd endured, there was simply no possible way to recapture the innocence he had when the story started because his scars were much deeper than the physical wound he'd suffered on Weathertop.
As with many themes in the story, Tolkien's own experience with trench warfare in World War I was a big factor in it being so well realized. But the only way to really make the audience identify with how such a thing so fundamentally changes one's being is to force them to endure traumatic event after traumatic event until it seems so much suffering has passed that they can only look back to where they were before it all began and say "Wow, I can never recapture the naïvety I once had about the world." It so affected Frodo, he effectively committed suicide at the end of the story. Sure, it was dressed up in flowery hopefulness about an eternal elven kingdom, but the reality is, he simply could not bear to go on in the world he so thoroughly changed - because in changing it, it irreversibly changed him.
It was incredibly well illustrated in the film (unless you were emotionally spent and unable to pay attention to the ultimate resolution).
Anyhow, good post though.