Since Halloween is just a hop, skip, and a jump away, I thought I would revisit my discussion on villains from my previous post about the Grimm Brothers. However, this time I wanted to broaden the scope of these evil characters to other books. Brutes and evildoers do not just exist in fairy tales, but also in very real and modern stories.
I decided to poll a few people, asking who they felt was their favorite–frightfully delightful– villain in literature. These were a few of the responses:
1. Voldemort from the “Harry Potter” series
Okay, I know I implied that these villains would be real and modern, but we all know that Voldemort is one of our favorite villains. The individual I interviewed stated he was incredibly likeable (for an evildoer) because the character so strongly relates to real-life tyrants. His strong grasp and power over so many witches, wizards, and creatures of the magical world is enough to make your skin crawl. And the idea of a promising young wizard turned mass-murderer is enough to strike fear in the strongest of hearts.
2. Cathy Ames from “East of Eden”
Cathy is a familiar character. The saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” relates to her in that she’s fairly attractive physically but Steinbeck writes about how the evil simmers in her eyes. If “East of Eden” was not on your required reading list at some point, but you sometimes enjoy shows like “Snapped,” definitely read the book. This is where angry women do insane things. Cathy is not the usual unattractive personality. She is conniving and can never be trusted and, most chillingly, she delights in the death and pain of others.
3. Heathcliff from “Wuthering Heights”
Heathcliff is a special case of a villain turned hero. For our purposes, he was a villain. After being turned down by the woman he loves, he becomes cruel and selfish. Heathcliff acts cruelly toward his new wife and forces his son into marriage with another woman with an uncanny resemblance to his love, Catherine. He forces his son and his niece to join in an incestuous relationship. It’s the chilling power of passion, friends.
4. President Coriolanus Snow from “The Hunger Games”
To be quite honest, I have not read this series nor have I watched the movie. It is something I have put on the back burner for right now. But, I have heard from my friends about President Snow’s character. First off, he is the supreme ruler of Panem in the stories and oppresses the people of the nation through military force. Similar to Voldemort, it has a lot of real-life societal backing. And if that’s not enough, the president has permanent sores inside his mouth, so he perpetually smells of blood if he’s not wearing a rose.
For me, one of the the greatest literary villains is time. An example that immediately comes to mind is Audrey Niffeneggar’s “The Time-Traveler’s Wife,” which was a story suspended in a strange abstraction of time for the main character Henry DeTamble. Time snatches him away from the woman he loves, Clare Abshire, when they least expect it. The strange mutilation of time causes him to meet her when she’s too young to understand, and he’s incredibly worldly. Time and Henry’s relationship to it causes him to relive his mother’s death over and over and he can do nothing to change the outcome.
Ponder over your favorite literary villain, and have a fun, deliciously scary Halloween!
Let me know your thoughts on literary villains at email@example.com or on Twitter @marie_eo.