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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