You Like Me, You Really, Really Like Me

…well, not really.

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times that suggested too much emphasis is placed on the liability of literary characters. Why do we, as readers, need to like our favorite characters? I say, we don’t. Sometime, many times, it’s fun to look at someone with contempt and loathing.

Here’s a list of my favorite loath-able characters, characters I, ironically enough love.

Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein

5. Victor Frankenstein from Shelley’s Frankenstein

How can’t you hate this guy? How can’t you love him? He’s a mad scientist. I give him credit for doing his best to advance civilization by discovering life’s elixir, the very spark that cause life to live, but come on!!!! Victor, you treated that creature of your like…well, you know. Have a heart. Give the big guy a hug.

King Claudius

 

 

4. Claudius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Now, old Claude is a smart cookie (almost as smart as his nephew Hamlet). Actually, I guess he was a smart cookie. Hamlet did him in. Still, I like this guy, even though he killed his brother and married his sister-in-law. He saw what he wanted and grabbed it. When he allowed his love, Gertrude, to drink that poisoned chalice rather than stop her and reveal his murderous bent, what a jerk!! But, oh, what a scene. After he died, I wanted him to live again just so he could die again.

Norman Rockwell’s Ichabod Crane

3. Ichabod Crane from Hawthorne’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

“As described in the story, Ichabod Crane follows strict morals in the schoolroom, including the proverbial “Spare the rod and spoil the child”; outside the schoolroom, he is shown to have few morals and no motive but his own gratification. Despite being thin, he is capable of eating astonishingly large amounts of food and is constantly seeking to do so. In addition to this, he is excessively superstitious, often to the extent of believing every myth, legend, tall tale, etc. to be literally true. As a result, he is perpetually frightened by anything that reminds him of ghosts or demons.” This guy is a real peeve. He deserved to lose his head! But still, I love to ride with him down that dark road and maybe even share an all you can eat buffet with him.

Holden Caulfield 225x300 The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield Analysis
Holden Claufield

 

 

2. Holden Claufield from Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

What a phony!! Holden is the poster boy from teenaged angst and I disdain teenaged angst. Grow up boy! Holden has a distrust an disdain for all, especially adults. Despite an obvious intelligence, he fails his classes and spend the novel roaming New York looking for, well who knows. Yet, despite all this, ya can’t help feeling for the guy. Salinger said, “The boy himself is too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.”

Javert.jpg
Inspector Javert

1. Inspector Javert from Hugo’s Les Miserables

If tenacity could be personified, this guy is that personification. Hugo writes this of Javert. ” Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand: their majesty, the majesty peculiar to the human conscience, clings to them in the midst of horror; they are virtues which have one vice, – error. The honest, pitiless joy of a fanatic in the full flood of his atrocity preserves a certain lugubriously venerable radiance. Without himself suspecting the fact, Javert in his formidable happiness was to be pitied, as is every ignorant man who triumphs. Nothing could be so poignant and so terrible as this face, wherein was displayed all that may be designated as the evil of the good.” Javert’s obsessed pursuit of Hugo’s hero, Jean Valjean, his inability to reconcile the fact that Valjean is a good man and the law, Javert;s only moral compass, is sometimes wrong causes the inspector’s eventual suicide. And yes, I pity him,

Please, if you haven’t, consider reading these books/stories. They’re each remarkable in their own way and will transport you to places and feelings you have yet to discover.

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2 thoughts on “You Like Me, You Really, Really Like Me

  1. I am always fascinated with how Shelley’s story, made up in 1816 while she and her party were stuck at Villa Diodati by inclement weather, has become such an iconic and integral part of western culture. Cushing, of course, was so very good at portraying the character – a wonderful actor whose interpretation of Frankenstein seemed to encapsulate the whole essence of ‘rational evil’.

    I guess the challenge for writers these days is to be able to portray an unlikeable character with all their dimensionalities; particularly given that the ‘bad guys’, to a fault, never actually consider that what they are doing is wrong. Perhaps the greatest challenge in that sense might be to create a character who, though profoundly evil, actually shows virtue in some senses – and to make that combination convincing. An interesting literary question.

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