Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Favorite Characters in Literature

After laboring through the 2004 Brad Pitt-mega-picture Troy last night, I realized how much I appreciate Odysseus as a literary character. One of my favorites, in fact.... which inspired me to come up with a list of my favorite literary characters of all-time. I think it goes something like this.

1. Sebasitian Dangerfield of the Ginger Man: I find him uproariously funny with intriguing moral compass...
2. Dean Moriarity - the Neal Cassidy character in Kerouac's classic On the Road
3. Odysseus - The King of Pain, traveling man, crafty trickster, great warrior king - call him what you will, but he holds up well after three thousand years.
4. Razhumikin - Raskolinkov's loyal Russian friend in Crime and Punishment.

I'm sure there are more, but these are the Mt. Rushmore (to steal a Bill Simmons phrase) faces of my literary life so far. Please feel free to add your own thoughts on this.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'd have to put Ulysses (Odysseus) at the top of my list. That's my first choice.

Then there is a whole slew of Shakepseare characters. Lear and Hamlet are huge, but Macbeth also makes for a compelling murderer. If I had to pick one, it would be Hamlet.

I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Tolkien's Gandalf ("the best white wizard in fiction"). I think it's arguable that Gandalf has had an profound and amazing influence on millions of people living in the 20th Century.

Finally, I'll have to go with an August Wilson character by the name of Bynum ("Joe Turner's Come and Gone"). Bynum is a shaman who travels through the dream world, seeking knowledge and helping other characters realize their destinies.

For my money, he's way better than fucking Holden fucking Caulfield and some of the other "great" literary characters. What's up Catcher in the Rye, anyway? Practically unreadable.

By the way, I'm somewhat surprised you omitted Rabbit Angstrom from your list, but I can see how he would be second-tier.

stan langerhaus said...

Yossarian instantly comes to mind. Mr. Rosewater was a sympathic character from Vonnegut (as well as Kilgore the science fiction writer). The Steppenwolf is somebody I can relate to. Henry Miller as well (if you consider him as a "character" in his books). That's about all I can think of right now.

Ralph said...

Many great suggestions, and yes, because I followed him through four novels I think, Rabbit Angstorm should definitely be added to my list (if there is room for a fifth). I'm going to Siddhartha out there too. Shakespeare is interesting... I had a period where I was in love with his work, but currently have trouble reading it. I've always said there is a language barrier that needs to be overcome before you can unlock it. Speaking of language, Beorwulf is probably pretty close to making this list as well.

Also, I think you're being a little hard on Holden C. It was a great high school book. I found it very readable back then, but don't know how it holds up. Perhaps in his time, he was very original, but has been redone so many times since that he seems less significant than he really was. You know what I'm saying.