Last week, I gave you my favorite bad guys. This week, I balance the equation out by listing my favorite good guys (and gals.) This is slightly skewed by the fact that I have forbidden myself to use any of the heroes in books I listed last time. Hence, some of my favorites are missing here, but that's not what's important. What is important is I am listing some of my favorite protagonists at an ungodly hour of the night (but not posting them until a more suitable hour) for your reading/comparison pleasure.
1. Hamlet (William Shakespeare's Hamlet): Okay, I know Hamlet is one of the biggest basketcases in all of literature. And he's possibly insane. And he can be really mean. And he has "issues" galore. However, that's exactly why I love Hamlet. He is such a complex character, which is something that I always adore, and he is not easily understood. Yet he is also extremely sympathetic (no matter how far off the deep end he is acting), brainy, philosophical, and most witty.
2. Beowulf (author unknown Beowulf): Last week, Scott mentioned Grendel as a worthy villain. Indeed! I almost put Grendel on my villain list, but he was ejected for Roger (Sadistic rock throwing Roger. Not creepy Puritan physician Roger.) That was a tough decision, but Grendel gets mentioned here in this very sentence, so that sort of evens out. (Do not argue with me. It most certainly evens out.) Beowulf is one of my favorites because he embodies the chivalric code of honor. And he kicks monster butt! And he probably has really cool armor. And he is pretty good with passive-aggressive insults, too. A man of both the sword . . . and the sharp tongue.
3. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre): I just adore Jane so much! She may not be pretty, but lovely heroines are sooooooooo overrated, anyway. (And so very boring, in my opinion.) Jane more than compensates with her smarts, her convictions, and her spunk. I am a sucker for literary orphans and Jane has long been one of my favorites. You go, girl!
4. any Jane Austen heroine (with the exception of Emma. God, how I hate her, though I still adore the book): I like Jane Austen's female characters, especially clever Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), long-suffering Fanny Price (Mansfield Park), and naive Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey), because they are so three dimensional. Austen could portray her heroines as one dimensional period props, but, instead, she imbues her characters with a great amount of individuality, intelligence, and charm. Yay for Jane! I will add that her heroes, especially George Knightley (Emma), Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion) and that fellow named Darcy, are all nicely crafted and sympathetic in their own right.
5. Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby): I know that Gatsby is sort of a shifty character with a shady past and a penchant for dishonesty, but in spite of all of his, erm, well, flaws, I found Gatsby one of the most compelling characters I have ever encountered. In the end, Gatsby does have his own somewhat skewed nobility and I found his complete determination to succeed and his devotion for that utterly worthless Daisy (who I will not call vile names on this blog. I promise I won't. I can't promise I won't refrain mentally, but I'll behave here.) very touching.
6. Anne Shirley (Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables): Another one of literature's orphans whom I just cannot help adoring. I love Anne because she reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age (Same social awkwardness. Same nerdiness. Same temper. Same orneriness.) but without some of my more insidious traits. (She's more forgiving than I am and less cynical and more upbeat.) What I love most about Anne, though, is her spunk. No matter what comes her way, she's up for the challenge. Anne's intelligence and courage definitely qualify her for the hero/heroine list.
7. Atticus Finch (Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird): Finch is the perfect Southern gentleman: kind, wise, honest, and noble. Though I adore him for those reasons alone, that's not why I admire him so much. His courage in refusing to go along with popular opinion to do what is right makes him one of the few characters I can say I honestly admire. He also utters one of my absolute favorite quotes: "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience." Well said, Atticus.
8. Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories and novellas): I love mysteries and have many favorite detectives (I may do a list one day), but in my mind, my absolute favorite detective will always be Sherlock Holmes. Yes, Sherlock may snort cocaine and hate women, but he is still the epitome of Victorian gentleman and his ingenious detection methods are a delight to read. Sherlock is crafty, clever, courageous, and collected. Bonus points for his acerbic British sense of humor.
9. Moist Von Lipwig (Terry Pratchett's Discworld series): What do you mean I can't use a con artist on my hero list? It's my list! I can do what I want! *pouts and stomps feet* Moist may be many things that are not, ahem, reputable, but he's also witty and crafty and delightfully bad (in a good antihero type way.) Moist may be the cagiest con man on Discworld, but underneath his roguish exterior lies an essentially good heart. You just have to look long and hard for it.
10. Matilda (Roald Dahl's Matilda): What is there not to love about Matilda? She's smart and sweet and precocious. And she can control chalk with her mind and engage in a truly strategic round of psychological warfare when pressed into it. Gentle Matilda is not to be under-estimated, yet she always has my sympathy. And, oh yes, she loves to read. What further qualification does she need?
I noticed last week that most of my favorite villains were psychological menaces. Likewise, I have noticed that my favorite heroes are often intelligent, snarky, and deeply flawed but still essentially honorable. I find this psychologically interesting. :D
Who are your favorites?
Next Week: I'll be free from school! So maybe Yann Martel's new book Beatrice and Virgil. Or John Gardner's Grendel.