Instead, let's just celebrate our favourite heroes of literature. Who are your favourite book characters? What was it about them that has kept them alive in your head?
In terms of pure skill from the author, I can name several characters that stand out for me. In previous posts I've mentioned Snape from the Harry Potter series and Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities, for example. Unlikely heroes or loveable villains make for much more interesting characters than two-dimensional bad guys and good guys, but I'm not really talking about interest here. I'm going for something much more low-brow - which characters did you enjoy getting to know, regardless of how skilled, or otherwise, the author was?
It seems to me that there are a few reasons why we fall for certain characters. Here are my suggestions, but feel free to comment with you own as well.
- The one we want to be. These characters are people who do and say the things that we wish we could. For me this category includes William Brown from Richmal Crompton's Just William books. Running around in 1940s rural Britain being a kid, with no technology, traffic, or battery-operated toys. Just make-believe, gobstoppers and friendship. Ditto George from the Famous Five and Anne of Green Gables. But you might have a more grown-up suggestion!
- The one we want to be friends with. In this category I'd also include characters who wish were our parents or grandparents etc. Sherlock Holmes would be pretty neat (as long as you were handy with a service revolver) and if I were to choose a grandpa, Badger from The Wind in the Willows would be a strong candidate.
- The one we're a little bit in love with. Forget Mr. Darcy, it's all about Mr. Knightley from Jane Austen's Emma, right ladies? Gentlemen, you'll have to make your own suggestions here - I'm too busy thinking about Mr. Knightley right now.
- The one that haunts us. They may not be our first choice of best friend but we won't forget them in a hurry. People in the category are almost entirely unlikeable but stay in our heads long after we put the book down and we still enjoyed finding out about them. They might be dashing villains, loveable rogues, or they might be downright nasty. Kevin from We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is my nominee.
Who would you put in each of these categories?
Most of my most memorable characters come from children's books - proving, I suppose, that we are much more impressionable as kids. There are probably as many reasons for remembering a character as there are characters to remember - irritating characters can be just a memorable as heroes (Beth from Little Women anyone?) - so please share your own favourites. Let's wallow in nostalgia together!