Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Do You Mean They're Not Real?

Time for another Thursday Thirteen because, well, Aussie Boy is still out of town and I have too much time on my hands. This week's list will be a nice reminder that I am, in fact, an English major, and I expect to get oodles of comment loving from all my fellow English majors out there. You hear that Caffeinated Librarian? Teacher Jane? Seth? Tense Teacher? You all out there?

The Thirteen Best Literary Characters of All Time

Brooding, with dog.
1. Mr. Rochester - Jane Eyre
Oh, the brooding and tortured Mr. Rochester, haunted by his troubled past and his gloomy outlook on the future. (Much better brooder than either Heathcliff or Darcy, both of whom have been known to do their share of standoffish brooding.) But when Jane came to him, he opened up, and we saw in him so much to redeem him. And then we fell in love with him completely. Or maybe that was just me.

2. Holden Caulfield - The Catcher in the Rye
Now, don't go all crazy on me yet. I haven't changed my opinion - I still hate Holden Caulfield. But what makes him great is the fact that words on a piece of paper create a character so realistic that I want bad things to happen to him, while other people fall in love and want to marry him or adopt him as their son. Good writing, Mr. Salinger.

3. Anthony and James Mallory - The Mallory Novels
These two loveable rogues never cease to crack me up. Each one has a book devoted to his own storyline, but all their best scenes really happen in other people's stories. They're snarky and cynical and sarcastic and I just adore them, especially when they have those rare moments of vulnerability and you see that deep down they're just big softies.

Ellen and Newland: tragic love.
4. Ellen Olenska - The Age of Innocence
What a tragic character is the Countess Olenska. Quietly strong, she struggles to understand the world of high New York society. When it comes down to it, she just wants to be free to feel and live as she believes is right, but the rules of her world just won't let that happen. In the end, she does what is right in spite of the cost to herself, and that's why she's admirable, instead of pitiable.

5. Adam - The Diaries of Adam and Eve
Poor Adam, stuck with "the creature" (Eve) who won't stop bothering him. His diary reads like a schoolboy's list of complaints. "Built me a shelter against the rain, but could not have it to myself in peace. The new creature intruded. When I tried to put it out it shed water out of the holes it looks with, and wiped it away with the back of its paws, and made a noise such as some of the other animals make when they are in distress." Later, he tries to determine what kind of creature Cain is by throwing it in the pond to see if it can swim. Poor, poor Adam. But good for us for getting some amusement out of it.

6. Ender Wiggins - Ender's Game
Ender was just a kid, just trying to live his normal life. Unfortunately for Ender, he has too many skills and talents to live anything resembling a "normal" life. Some people claim that Orson Scott Card wrote the kids incorrectly - that they're too mature to be realistic. I don't think that's necessarily true, and I think Ender's a great example of a kid who just does his best with what he has, given the unfair expectations everyone has of him.

A great American hero.
7. Atticus Finch - To Kill a Mockingbird
One of the greatest heroes of American literature, Atticus is the epitome of a good man. He's strong, but fair, and he stands by his beliefs. In all things, he keeps his children's best interests at heart, and he uses the injustices of the world to teach them about justice. He never gives up, even when all the odds are against him, and because of that, he earns the respect of everyone whose respect is worth having. "Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing."

8. Jim Qwilleran - The Cat Who... books
It's been far too many years since I read one of these books, but I used to love hearing about Qwill's mystery-solving with Koko and Yum-Yum (his two Siamese cats). Qwill's a quiet one, more observant than anything else, but when he does come out with comments, they can snark with the best of them. And, when it comes down to it, he knows how to appreciate his cats and their contributions to his life.

9. Christopher Robin - Winnie the Pooh
I know what you're wondering: Of all the characters in the tales of Winnie the Pooh, why did I choose Christopher Robin? At first glance, he seems the least interesting of the bunch, but in reality, he is the best of all, for he is the foundation for every single creature in the Hundred Acre Wood. And really, all the best qualities in Pooh, Piglet, Kanga, Rabbit, Owl and the rest are reflections of those same qualities in Christopher Robin. He's the best imaginer in existance.

"Dessine-moi un mouton!"
10. The Prince - Le Petit Prince
Again, I can hear you all wondering already. If you know anything about this story, you may think of the Prince as being spoiled and petulant. But he has many redeeming qualities too, and when you think about it, he's so human (even though he's actually an alien). He loves his rose, and is distraught to believe it will be gone someday. He sees what others cannot, and believes in beauty and joy above all. It's true that's idealistic, but he's just a child, and I love that idealism in him.

11. Scarlett O'Hara - Gone with the Wind
Similar to Holden Caulfield, Scarlett inspires strong reactions in readers. She's strong, but vulnerable - spoiled, but selfless. Like the Prince, she's just human, and all the more loveable for that. Rhett doesn't give her enough credit for her strengths, or forgiveness for her mistakes. The only reason I can stand her is because I understand her, for better or worse.

12. Emma Bovary - Madame Bovary
Emma was just a poor lost soul, looking for a way out. I'm not even sure she knew what she wanted out of, but she knew she was seeking that escape. Much like the Countess Olenska, she's placed in a tragic situation; unlike the Countess, she makes poor decisions and winds up all the worse for it. She felt trapped, and helpless, and acted badly in trying to help herself. If only Monsieur Bovary could have understood that.

He can stand on his head!
13. The Cheshire Cat - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Last, but not least. The Cheshire Cat is perplexing, because he seems to enjoy tormenting Alice, while professing to want to help her. He continually speaks in riddles, knowing they confuse her, but seems to want to help her understand Wonderland and her role there. When she is upset at the croquet game, he appears to cheer her up - or does he appear just to cause trouble? The Cheshire Cat seems to be the most intelligent and logical citizen of Wonderland, despite all appearances to the contray - you just have to work through the riddles to see that.

So, who did I miss? Who do you think should be on this list?

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



Tina said...

I love Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird too. =) Really admirable. I love how Scout narrated the novel as well.

Great list! Happy Thursday!

Anonymous said...

I looooove yiur #9-12

I read Madame Bovary when I was at college

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who finds the Cheshire Cat absolutely fascinating !!!

Anonymous said...

these are great. i'm partial to Franny from Franny and Zooey. my favorite literary character of all time.

(i'm also a big fan of Ramona...from the Beverly Cleary books)

Aussie Boy said...

Honorable mention: The character of "Aussie Boy" from Lara David's "Life: The Ongoing Education". Only a recent addition to the slew of fictional romantic heroes, Aussie is yet to have gained a great enough exposure to deserve a place in the top thirteen. However future iterations of this meme will see his name a unquestionable feature in the top half dozen.

Dishonorable mention: The "this blog sucks guy" formerly used by L. David to garner attention was was clearly a poorly developed character from a young, inexperienced author. The onset of "Aussie Boy" is symbolic of the author's development, as is her insistence that such characters each have their own identity for commentary.

LaLa said...

Oooh. I loved the Little Prince.

I know it's not exactly highbrow English literature, it's chick lit really but I ADORE the characters in Marian Keyes books. Brilliant.

I loved Matthew from Anne of Green Gables too, every time he died, a little piece of me died too.

NOLADawn said...

Atticus Finch and Scarlett are two of my favorite characters ever!

Happy TT!

shelleycoughlin said...

Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice is one of my most favorite characters, ever. Ever. And I've read a lot of books! :)

Homemom3 said...

Loved "To Kill a Mockingbird" but one you didn't mention was "Of Mice and Men."

Happy TT!

Anonymous said...

Love Ender Wiggin and LOVE Atticus Finch. To Kill A Mockingbird has been one of my favorite novels since age 12. Jim Qwilleran is fun too. Another great character is Dicey from Homecoming/Dicey's Song/other books by Cynthia Voight. They're technically "young adult" books but they're well-written, and Dicey's character is strong, realistic, and admirable.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you chose Rochester over Darcy!!! But, you redeemed yourself by putting Atticus Finch on your list.

What about John Proctor from The Crucible or Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter, and how could you forget Prince Hamlet?! Oooh, and the vampire Lestat?! (Can you tell I cheer for the tortured souls?)

Great TT! Very thought provoking!

Anonymous said...

I'd add Ferdinand, from The Story of Ferdinand, and Santiago, from The Old Man and the Sea.

Anonymous said...

I'm 100% with you on Atticus Finch and Mr. Rochester.

I'd add Hannibal Lecter. Having read as many creepy psychological thriller/mystery books as I have, he is the only serial killer who evokes respect and, especially after Hannibal Rising, compassion. I won't address the monstrosity that was Hannibal, but in both Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal Rising, part of me couldn't help but really like the guy. And it's odd to be cheering for a cannibal. :)

Michael said...

What a great list.

I'm not sure I'd agree with all of them, not so much for who was included so much as for those who you were forced to exclude as a result.

I now have another great idea to steal for an upcoming TT.

Anonymous said...

I add:
- Alexei in The Brothers Karamazov
- Nick Adams in Hemingway's stories

Dewey said...

I USED to be an English major til I graduated, do I count? :) Atticus is by far my favorite. I think I have a little crush on him.

But why would anyone consider the little prince spoiled or petulant? I can't think of a single thing he ever says or does that would make anyone view him that way.

Anonymous said...

Were the Anthony and James Mallory from the Mallory novels by Johanna Lindsey? I like them too.

Who did you miss?

I love Michael Valentine Smith (Stranger in a Strange Land)

Also there are more women who are great literary characters ie

Lilith Iyapo (Octavia Butler's Dawn)
Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich)

Good list.

Mercy's Maid said...

I actually haven't read any of those except #9. I love the Winnie the Pooh stories.

Wolf Lover Girl said...

I know I've read to Kill a Mockingbird, but I don't remember it at all. And actually I just recently purchased it to read it again (once I'm finished with the Little House on the Prairie series!)

~ Wolf Lover Girl

Angela said...

Well I sure feel dumber after reading this.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I'm glad there' someone out there who likes Emma Bovary. She just makes me yawn.

Seth said...

I'm pretty upset that you've got Atticus so far down the list... he should be #1.

Second, I also think that Santiago, from Old Man and the Sea, should be on that list too.

I would have also added Billy Coleman, from Where the Red Fern Grows; Janie Mae Crawford, from Their Eyes Were Watching God; and a number of characters from Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County.

Good list otherwise though.

Unknown said...


Atticus Finch. I want to name my SON Atticus.


Maybe more than six kids. Yikes.

Well... Maybe I'll have a chocolate lab named Atticus.


Unknown said...


Atticus Finch. I want to name my SON Atticus.


Maybe more than six kids. Yikes.

Well... Maybe I'll have a chocolate lab named Atticus.


Anonymous said...

No one from Dickens? Don't Pickwick, Pip, Scrooge or David Copperfield merit a mention? They will still be read and enjoyed when most of these others have faded into obscurity.

Nice to see Christoper Robin there. I met him once.

Jay said...

You did what I would consider to be practically impossible, although I would have had Don Corleone in a top spot, for the spice.

Incidentally, I just finished reading The Eyre Affair...have you read it?

Caffeinated Librarian said...

Gee thanks. Now I'm gonna have to make a list of my own now. *sigh*

*Psst* Darcy rulz!

Lara said...

first, a note to everyone: these were listed in no particular order, so the fact that atticus is number 7 is not indicative that i think he's not as good as the six above him. thank you. :)

tina - yes, scout and jem are both great characters in their own rights. but atticus is just mind-blowingly awesome.

naeva - i also read madame bovary in college, and while i wanted to dislike her, i just couldn't. sweet, misguided girl.

aly - how could anyone NOT? he's great, and sometimes i think one of the only worthwhile characters in the whole book.

ali - i've actually never read franny and zooey, but i should. and ramona? yes, awesome. i'd forgotten about her.

aussie boy - you know, it's not ALWAYS about you. :-P

lala - hey, the two guys in #3 are from trashy romance novels, so there's nothing wrong with a mention from chick lit. also, i know it wasn't meant to be, but your comment about matthew was funny, because it makes it sound like he dies over and over again. well, it was funny to me.

noladawn - odd though, right? they're sooo different!

nancy pearl wannabe - i knew someone would bring either him or elizabeth bennett to the table. he's all right, but to me he's just a not-as-good version of mr. rochester.

homemom3 - ooh, you're right. george is a classic character, definitely worthy of a mention.

tali - ooh, someone who actually knows jim qwilleran! i think young adult characters are perfectly reasonable additions, too, so thanks for mentioning yours.

tense teacher - i'd take rochester over darcy any day of the week and twice on sunday. as for hester, i considered her, but she's so much more iconic as a character than realistic, and it's hard to feel for her because of that, at least for me. hamlet gets a bit too annoying for my tastes, but i can respect a proposal that he's near the top.

kenny ramone - never read either, but i'll take your word for it.

seeser - ah, hannibal's a good one, though i've never read any of the book. certainly from the movie, though, i agree that he's a fascinating character.

techsplorer - yeah, that's the sad thing about a thursday thirteen: you can only include thirteen items! i had to leave off a lot of great folks. :(

louis - i think i read one of the nick adams stories in high school, but it wasn't memorable enough to stay with me. i've never read the brothers karamazov, but like with kenny above, i'll take your word for it.

dewey - of course you count! i think people see the prince as spoiled and petulant because he has, at times, a very self-centered view of the world. he's sad to find out that there are roses other than his, and he flat-out demands that the narrator draw a sheep for him. you must admit, he is at least a little spoiled and petulant, even if we love him in spite of that.

journeywoman - yep, johanna lindsey. all those characters are great, in my opinion. the mallory family is my favorite romance series ever. :)

mercy's maid - never read alice in wonderland?! nor to kill a mockingbird? i'm shocked. you must go start reading. :)

wolf lover girl - i'd be interested to hear your thoughts after you read it again. i'm thinking maybe i should reread it too.

angela - no! why? just because you haven't read these? you should feel smarter for the knowledge you've gained. plus, now you have ideas for new reading material. :)

CTG - yawn away, dear friend, 'cause i can relate to her well.

seth - like i said, not in order! as to your other suggestions, i've never read any of them, so i can't speak to their merits. but i'll take them into consideration. ;)

sassy - yeah, i really wanted a son named atticus too! but people kept saying he'd be teased too much and i shouldn't be so mean. hrmph! :(

nicholas - i did briefly consider pip, i'll admit. but with only 13, he just didn't make the cut.

jay - ooh, don corleone. that's a good one. and no, i haven't read the eyre affair - is it good?

CL - you'll love making the list, and don't pretend otherwise. :-P

dancing dragon said...

Awesome list. Someday when I have the energy to read a book, I'll have this list in mind, as I haven't read most of these.

Lara said...

dancing dragon - someday, when you have the energy, i'll take you out to borders and buy you a bright shiny copy of "alice's adventures in wonderland" for you to enjoy. :)

Dani said...

Wonderful list, lots of good characters and a few I haven't read. I'll have to start checking them out~