Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reading a Classic for the Villain

When asked why someone reads a classic story, the answer often is that the characters are memorable.  Often, characters are redemptive, loving, loveable, attractive.

But what if they're not?

Listverse intrigued me with a recent list of the 10 Vilest Villains in Literature.  I now am revising my classics reading list to include one or two of the more interesting villains.

I am already familiar with more than half of the villains on the Listverse list.  (I'm not sure if I should be pleased or concerned.)  I have met the Wicked Witch of the West courtesy of two different authors.  I'm also intimately familiar with Sauron, thanks to my recent obsession with The Lord of the Rings (thank you, Peter Jackson and J.R.R. Tolkien!).  I know I read Beowulf in college, but I claim no ability to retain anything I was scheduled to discuss in excruciating detail at 8 a.m. on a Monday.  I also know Satan, though not on a first-name basis.

However, I have yet to meet the Transylvanian count, and I look forward to our introduction in Dracula.  I've seen him at a glance, but we never had a chance to get acquainted.

I also have added Bill Sykes (of Oliver Twist) to my list.  I remember the revulsion I felt when seeing him on stage in the musical Oliver!; even as a 10-year-old, I knew evil when it crossed my path.  I also suspect Charles Dickens can scare the, forgive me, dickens out of me with a good bad guy.  Right now David and I are becoming acquainted with the soon-to-be-redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge, and I am mesmerized by Dickens' prose in A Christmas Carol.  I believe I have learned the trick to novelist: read him out loud, and you literally can't put down his tale.

Can you recommend some villains you have met?  What repelled you?  More importantly, what attracted you?  (I promise I won't tell.)

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