Favorite Literary Characters
I was an English major in college, so I’ve read quite a few literary classics, some by force and some by choice. In my reading ventures, I’ve come across books, and their characters, that have spoken to me on numerous levels. Below I’ve listed my three favorite literary characters, and while they are in no particular order, I must admit the first one is probably my all-time favorite.
Character: Scarlett O’Hara (though if you want to get technical, Katie Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler)
Appears In: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (though she’s also in the lesser quality Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley and Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig)
Why She’s a Favorite: What’s not to love about Scarlett?! This is a woman who was so ahead of her time people were scared of what she might do next. Even at the beginning of the novel, when she’s but a mere doe-eyed 16-year-old girl, she knows what she wants and goes after it. While she strives to be the perfect southern belle, just like her mother, her wild streak is always right under the surface, ready to lead her down a completely different path. I first read Gone with the Wind in high school, just as I was beginning to discover my feminist side, and I found Scarlett to be exactly the “girl power” role model I needed in my life. I admired her determination and strength from living through the Civil War to prospering afterward. As an adult who still enjoys reading the book, and of course watching the movie, I find Scarlett as fascinating and as complex as ever.
Additional Thoughts: As much as I love Scarlett O’Hara, I have to say seeing Vivien Leigh play Scarlett O’Hara is almost just as good. The studios could not have done a better job casting her (or Rhett Butler for that matter. Hello, Clark Gable!) and if Hollywood ever decides to remake this and try and cast someone else in that role, I will be the first one to boycott it!
Character: Jane Eyre
Appears In: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Why She’s a Favorite: Jane is the original Cinderella story. She begins the story an orphan abused by her aunt and uncle. She goes to a school where she manages to makes friends, but still finds herself oppressed. She becomes a governess and falls in love with Edward Rochester, only to discover his wife is still alive. It isn’t the happy ending that makes Jane such a wonderful character in my mind. It’s that she always manages to be herself no matter what trial or tribulation she finds herself in next. She’s stronger than she, or anyone around her, gives her credit for. As a fan of modern romances, I’ve always put Jane on the pedestal as the perfect romantic heroine. She may be plain in looks, but she will not sacrifice her morals, her beliefs, or her own well-being for any man. She’s the perfect role model for any young woman looking for a strong-willed woman who isn’t afraid of making the difficult decisions.
Additional Thoughts: There have been so many movie adaptations of this book, and while I have seen a couple versions, I have yet to settle on a favorite. I haven’t seen the new version which released recently, but I’m hoping to add that to the Netflix queue before too long.
Character: Darl Bundren
Appears In: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Why He’s a Favorite: In a novel where there isn’t a clear-cut protagonist or a traditional narrator, Darl could easily fill either role. Some would say Darl is crazy, usually citing the barn burning instance. I, however, always read that scene as Darl trying to end the ridiculous journey they were on so his mother could finally rest in peace. I also enjoyed his perception, which seemed much better than those around him. He knew Dewey Dell was pregnant and he knew Jewel wasn’t their father’s son. Darl is also given the most sections to narrate, which helped him stand out as the main character/narrator of the novel.
Additional Thoughts: As I Lay Dying was the first Faulkner book I read and definitely solidified my love for the great American novelist. I also discovered through this book that I really enjoy novels told through various points of view, a technique utilized by many writers today, including my favorite modern-day writer, Jodi Picoult.