Top Ten List: Most fascinating Literary Characters

Top Ten List: Most Fascinating Literary Characters
(In no particular order though and any genre applies since my list is mostly of those whose genres I read the most. heheh)

  1. Peter Wiggin–I haven’t read much of Card’s series, except for “Xenocide”, but from what I have read, he seemed fairly interesting. He was indeed cruel and yet, one knew that he wasn’t just that. It certainly helped that he changed. The fact that I find him interesting and even likable(!) DESPITE not having read much of him kind of says something. SO, that’s why he’s included for me. heeheh

  2. Raistlin Majere(DragonLance)–Said to be quite evil, yet I somehow can’t see how, despite the things he’s done. It just looks to me like humanity had failed him…doesn’t justify much of his actions, but it’s an explanation. Anyway, he’s wonderfully complex and intelligent. These are always pluses to me. heeheh

  3. Elric(Micheal Moorcock)–Sorceror and Warrior, what a combination. One capable of compassion and brutality. Hell, I don’t think anyone can pigeon hole him into anything. Not quite a hero, but not quite a villian. He’s been through a lot and yet still kept ticking until the very end. A tragic character.

  4. Sauron(Lord of the Rings/Silmarrilion)–I find him fascinating because so little is known about him. He’s never had a perspective in Tolkein’s stories, so it always made me wonder what went through the Dark Lord’s mind during the events. Also, I didn’t believe for a second that he was “just evil”. I don’t quite believe it now.

  5. Medea–She did a lot (both good and bad) for Jason and when did she get in return? Not much. While her vengeful actions were infuriating, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She is a powerful, tragic heroine.

  6. Drizzt Do’Urden(Forgotten Realms)(You can tell I’m genre biased! AHAHAH)–At first, for some unexplainable reason, I didn’t seem to like him very much. In fact, hated him or ambivalent(which is more accurate) Maybe because I expected perfection or something. Then again, I was an 8th grader when I first read about him and was likely more shallow then. Now and days, I see him exactly how he is, caring and compassionate to friends and those who deserve it and fierce to those who are dicks. I’m glad I never did abandon him.

  7. Zaknafein Do’Urden(Forgotten Realms)–I found him even more fascinating than Drizzt because he is even more complex AND tragic. The latter is always a plus to me. ehheeheheh…

  8. The Man in Black or Walter(The Dark Tower Series)–Elusive, mysterious, ubitquitous. Need I say more?

  9. Clytemnestra(The Orestia)–I don’t know why people villify her as much as they do. She’s a Queen who lost her daughter because of the arrogance of her husband. Oh, no wait! I know why! Wouldn’t be because she was intelligent and powerful, eh? Wouldn’t be because she wanted some kind of justice for what happened, eh? How villianous! How terrible! But, yea, I found her VERY fascinating.

And last, but certainly not least:

  1. Claude Frollo(Notre Dame De Paris)–Those who read my journal entry about NDDP can see why, but I’ll explain here as well. He is by far one of the most complex, passionate, powerful, articulate brillant, knowledgeable and yes, tragic characters ever!!! I could go on forever about how his obsessiveness, and insatiable desire (and not just for Esmerelda) ruined him and those around him. Why Esmerelda wouldn’t “have him” is beyond me…

From a SciFi Fantasy Perspective: Top 10

1 Gandalf the Grey - LOTR, Tolken
2 Thomas Convenant - Unbeliver Series, Stephen Donaldson
3 Miles Vorkosigan - Barrayar Series, Lois MacMasters Bujold
4 Nessus the Puppeter - Ring World, Larry Niven
5 Pug/Millibar - Magician Series, Raymond Feist
6 Gollum - LOTR, Tolkein
7 Ender Wiggin - Ender’s Games, Orson Scot Card
8 The duo of Crowley & Aziraphale - Good Omens, Pratchett & Gaiman
9 John Carter - Man of Mars Series, Edgar Rice Burroughs
10 Susan Calvin - Robot Series, Iaasic Asimov

No particular order:

  1. Humbert Humbert (Lolita A torn man…Tears the reader, too, I think. Don’t know exactly what to do with him, what to make of him.

  2. Brenda Patimkin (Goodbye, Columbus) I’m not really sure why this character popped into my head…I suppose she’s another torn character. She’s unsure of who she is - I think she dislikes who she is, somewhat. She wants to be with Neil but can’t shake the feeling that she shouldn’t have that desire.

  3. Penelope (“The Oddysey”) Again, I’m not sure why she popped into my head. I’ll think about it.

  4. Charlotte Ellison (The Cater Street Hangman) The young Victorian woman who breaks the rules - she’s interested in the news, she speaks her mind, she has an adventurous spirit. Yet, her character seems to do a 180 at the end of the book.

  5. Nero Wolfe (of the short stories by Rex Stout) Gotta wonder what makes the man tick, what’s behind the orchid obsession & the woman phobia.

…I’ll have to figure out my next five in a bit…I’m out for now. :slight_smile:

This might answer your question

1 - Captain Ahab, Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
2 - Angus Thermopyle, The Gap Series, Stephen R. Donaldson
3 - Vina Apsara, The Ground Beneath her Feet, Salman Rushdie
4 - Carrot, Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
5 - Iago, Othello, William Shakespeare
6 - Julie Katz, Only Begotten Daughter, James Morrow
7 - Binabik, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad Williams
8 - Hagbeard Celine, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea
9 - Charles Kinbote, Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
10 - HAL, 2001, Arthur C. Clarke

The limit of ten is hard since I have read a good number of books and especially hard since I read (and so enjoy) most genres.

Let me toss out ten that come readily to mind although as one comes, so do about 15 or 20 more. I keep feeling that I will insult a literary friend if I don’t include 50 or so more.

Sherlock Holmes - Is it any wonder that more movies have been made about him than any other literary character? (I take my fact from the Book of Lists - I know there is some discussion on this, however). He is a fascinating character.

Emma Bovary - Wonderfully complicated and at the same time a simple woman.

Jean Valjean - Nobility yet survivorness personified.

Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde - Can you get more fascinating than two completely opposite men in one body?

Lord Peter Wimsey - A wonderfully drawn character, Sayers combines literature, action and well, whimsy all in one character.

MacBeth - I suppose this is theatrical rather than literary, but a wonderful character who does incredibly evil deeds but never becomes evil himself.

Captain Ahab - Here was a charater that took on nature, the sea, tradition, and even God, yet never gave up.

"O" - What can I say? I find her fascinating.

Scaramouche - His motto said it all, “He was born with a smile on his lips and a firm conviction that the world was insane.”

Wooster and Jeeves - They have to be counted as one and they make such wonderful silliness together.

–and so many more…

Here’s a few off the top of my head …

Richard III – meaning, of course, Shakespeare’s anti-hero version, which may or may not have much bearing on the historical figure. Anyone who can open a play with a speech saying “Everyone else is happy, but I can’t be, so I’m gonna be an EVIL BASTARD” and have the audience cheering him on through the rest of the piece is fascinating in my book.

Javert – since someone’s already mentioned Jean Valjean, I’d like to point out that Javert is a marvellously complex character too. The scene where [SPOILER] the man he’s been hunting through the whole book saves his ass, and the resulting soul-searching, is brilliant. Go Hugo.

Sam Vimes – because I have a genre bent too. :wink: You’re never quite sure what he’s going to pull out of his head to save the day. (an honorable mention goes out to the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork too)

Cyrano de Bergerac – because, well … because. You can’t read this play and not cry at the end. Especially in the original.

Professor Snape – okay, maybe this is stretching the term “literary,” but there’s a lot more to this character than just “evil teacher who doesn’t like Harry.” He does everything by the rules, always gets shown up by Harry’s dad (who breaks the rules but never gets punished for it), gets so angry and frustrated that he goes to the other side, then comes back to the very man he pretty much betrayed. Snape’s the man.

I’m sure as soon as I hit “submit” I’ll think of more, but this is what I’ve got at the moment.

That was ridiculous!

Everyone knows that Wolfe doesn’t come down the STAIRS…he always takes the elevator.

I gotta go have some words with that Carnivorous Plant.
– Ukulele “I’ll believe I’ll have another Stout” Ike

Winston Smith - 1984
O’Brien - 1984
George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia (its nonfictional, but still literature. This guy had a fascinating life.)
Tom Joad (and the whole Joad family really) - The Grapes of Wrath
Andrei Bolkonsky - War and Peace. I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far I like this guy. His father was even more interesting I think, but less central.
Huck Finn - The Adventures of Huck Finn
Willy Loman - The Death of a Salesman

I totally agree with Raistlin being interesting, as well as Gandalf. I suppose I don’t have anything really to add…

Well Dalamar was interesting as well…

Oh yeah, and
Cassius from Julius Caesar. I think he was the real tragic hero of that play.

Sabina - The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera - I love Sabina. She struggles her whole life to be light, free from obligation, free from omniscient father figures (her own, Communism, Tomas); when she finally achieves freedom, she finds it unbearable. A truly complicated, modern woman - I think she represents the dichotomy many of us feel between career and family, obligations and desires.

Woland - The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov - The best Satan I have ever read about (even better than Mann). Delightfully un-Christian, I think he turns every idea about good, evil, god and the devil on its head. I love that (though he’s the devil) he’s one of the most fair, just, truthful characters in the novel. And I love his concept of heaven and hell.

Pilate - Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison - Another complicated, honest woman who is driven by real desires and touched by real sorrow and pain. When she sings for her dead daughter, you understand her pain; she is content with what she has and fights for it with everything she is and all that she has.

Owen Meany - A Prayer For Own Meany by John Irving - this isn’t my favorite Irving book, but I think Owen is the most fascinating character. He is bound by his faith and manages to instill that faith (in something - in him, in God, in a higher power) in everyone around him. He lives by his faith and sacrifices himself for it. I admire his struggle, his belief, and his ultimate deliverance.

Marc Antony - Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare - My favorite play, and Marc Antony is my favorite Shakespearean character. He is leader of one-third of the world, yet he gives it all up for love. After the Battle of Actium, when he follows Cleopatra and loses everything, he tells her, “Egypt, thou knewest too well my heart was to thy rudder tied by thy string, and thou should tow me after. Over my heart thy full supremacy thou knowest, and that thy beck might from the bidding of the gods command me.” He doesn’t care - he only wants to be with her, and he is able to erase all her guilt with a kiss. What a guy.

Siddhartha - Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse - Siddhartha (the book) has helped me greatly on my own journey and obstacles, but Siddhartha (the man) is just this dude who wants to understand what life is - what the body, the soul, love, hate, and peace mean in his experiance and in a broader sense. Chapter 3 has him finding flaws in Buddha’s teachings and searching for something more. I respect his unquenchable search for knowledge above all else.

Henry David Thoreau - Walden - my personal Bible. Technically, he’s not a character, but he is an amazing literary figure in this book. I admire everything he stands for - how he refuses to settle for being bored, how he challenges himself purposefully to expand his mind and enrich his experience, how he supports and goes against many of the commonly held beliefs of his time, how he doesn’t care at all what people think of him. I think he’s truly a hero.

Isobel - These Granite Islands by Sarah Stonich - Isobel describes many of her experiences during her 99 years on Earth, but everytime I read this book I know that there’s so much more to her than just that. Above all else, she survives, and as truthful as she is in this novel, she takes so much more with her to her grave. And that’s why I think she is utterly fascinating - because she is multi-faceted, dimensional and real.

Orno Tarcher - For Kings and Planets by Ethan Canin - another multi-faceted, truthful, honest character. He’s not perfect, he makes mistakes, he ends up like a lot of us - content with just being alive, having people who love us nearby, and doing work that makes up happy, even if it’s not what we once dreamed.

Francie Nolan - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - Francie overcomes so much - she has all the odds stacked against her from the day she is born - but she overcomes it all and triumphes. I respect her strength and her perseverence, and her ability to always look for the silver lining.

  1. Odysseus
  2. Jesus
  3. Merlin (Malory et al)
  4. Hamlet
  5. Lear
  6. Satan (Milton et al)
  7. Emma Bovary (fascinating in the train wreck sense)
  8. Emma (Austen)
  9. Werther (Goethe–another annoying entry)
  10. Sir Thomas More (Bolt)

Interesting that some of the characters get reused by other authors–there’s a bunch of authors who couldn’t resist Merlin and Satan as characters, for instance. Also (not trying to be snobbish at all), I think many people would recognize many of the characters on this list without reference to more than one name, author or title of book.

I like a lot of the other characters listed too (well, I don’t like them all, but they do fascinate), but there can only be ten.

I’ve only got a few right now:
Raskolnikov: Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky
Yossarian: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Beloved: Beloved by Toni Morrison
Spenser: Any of the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker (I’m a sucker for the private eye/ex-boxer/general badass who reads novels, poetry, and cooks like a demon)
Nicola Six: London Fields by Martin Amis
Hal Incandenza: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Wow, I thought of these two just reading the thread title! Great minds think alike. :wink:

I would also include Rachel Price from The Poisonwood Bible, for pretty much the same reasons as Francie Nolan. Not that she had the odds stacked against her from the day she was born, but for having the strength and perseverance to get through hardship.

Scout Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. I always liked her.

I don’t know if I can come up with ten right now. I’ll have to think a bit.

No way! Michael Pemulis was five times as interesting as the Incster. But it’s good to meet anybody else who has read the greatest work of American literature from the last sixty years. :slight_smile:

My list, in no particular order, and totally off the top of my head:

Don Gately from the aforementioned work of genius.

Hamlet. More alive than almost any real person I know.

Fleur Pillager, from Louise Erdrich’s novels, especially Tracks.

Paul Berlin, from Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato. This is the postmodern narrator at his best.

Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Bartleby the Scrivener.

Yossarian, from both Catch-22 and the somewhat underrated Closing Time.

Dent. Arthur Phillip Dent.

Soupspoon Wise, from Walter Moseley’s amazingly ignored RL’s Dream.

Barabas, The Jew of Malta. I cannot help but think of Barabas as the ultimate antihero. Thank you so very much for somebody who will happily murder every pompous gits in sight, Christopher Marlowe.

Boo Radley from To Kill A Mickingbird. Somehow, we just didn’t get to learn enough about the guy. I’d like to sit under a tree with him and talk while we drank a glass of tea; try to learn what makes him tick…

Owen Meany. He’s so unreal, but he’s so endearing.

  1. Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities: got to love a depressed drunk with a heart of gold.

  2. Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins: what is she? Angel? Witch? Immortal? This is for sure: she knows everybody worth knowing… and kids love her!

  3. Sara Crewe, A Little Princess: in the face of bereavement, coal dust and adversity, a real class act.

  4. Claudia Kincaid, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: who else could make hiding out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art so terribly comfortable?

  5. Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein: hubris, hubris, hubris, but what a work ethic!

  6. Constance and Merricat Blackwood, We Have Always Lived In the Castle: a better example of sisterly love and crystalline obssession I’ve never seen.

  7. Maggie, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets: short, sad life story of a poor girl in 19th century New York City. Maggie had it stacked against her from the beginning, but she gave it all she had.

  8. Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With the Wind: defined the Steel Magnolia for generations of southern gals.

  9. Justine, Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised: what terrible thing doesn’t happen to this poor, innocent woman? Scary but sexy, too…!

  10. Joseph Armagh, Captains and the Kings: the making of a robber baron, and a look inside his mind along the way.

  1. Captain Ahab, Moby Dick
  2. Huckleberry Finn
  3. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
  4. Benjy, The Sound and the Fury
  5. Hamlet
  6. King Lear
  7. Leopold Bloom, Ulysses (but what a bear to read)
  8. Kate, East of Eden
  9. Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind
  10. Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
  11. Henry V