> Thanks to Chris from Book-A-Rama! I was inspired to write this post while reading her review of Tess Of The d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. She was discussing that loser Angel Clare, and it brought back vivid memories of shouting and turning the air blue when I read the novel many years ago. This doesn’t happen to me a lot, but when I meet a character that irritates, annoys or enrages me, I never get over it. As a result, I have quite a gallery of fictional characters that I’d like to line up for anything ranging from a contemptuous thump on the forehead to a full-force punch in the nose.
In no particular order:
John Reed and Mrs. Reed from Jane Eyre. I first became acquainted with Jane Eyre when I was eight or nine, about the same age Jane is when the novel opens. I didn’t read the whole book at that time, losing interest after she grew up and left Lowood. But for several years, I was riveted to those first few chapters. Jane Eyre stands out as the first time I had a strong visceral reaction to literature. I remember throwing the book down and crying with rage and frustration because I couldn’t jump into the novel and beat the crap out of John Reed.
Miss Minchin from Sara Crewe. How dare she make Sara live in the attic and wear rags and smack her around and do menial labor and nearly starve her? More than 30 years after first reading this novel, I’m still ready to fight! Let her try that cruel shit on a 20th-century girl!
Fee Cleary, Frank Cleary, Luke O’Neill, Justine O’Neill and especially Meggie Cleary and Father Ralph from The Thorn Birds. The Cleary clan has the distinction of being annoying across several countries and a couple of continents. If Father Ralph came back through the line for seconds, I wouldn’t mind.
Angel Clare from Tess Of The d’Urbervilles. I don’t want to slap him. I just want to stand around on his neck for a while. I can’t think about Angel Clare too long; I start grinding my teeth. It’s hard to remember that I love having tooth enamel more than I hate him. Him and his stupid name.
Cathy and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Things didn’t work out so well for Cathy, but she was a huge pill before she checked out.
Philip Carey from Of Human Bondage. He knows Mildred’s a monster, even noting her greenish-tinged skin right from the get-go, but still he persists!
Ashley Wilkes from Gone With The Wind. Scarlett’s pretty clueless, but Ashley could’ve set her straight WAY before he got engaged to Melanie, and at several points after that. I like it that he’s a big reader with a big library (at least, before the war) but in this case, bypassing the bookstore and going out and buying himself a pair would have been infinitely more helpful all around.
Mark from Heartburn. And a mini-slap to Rachel for wasting a perfectly good key lime pie.
The mother from My Sister’s Keeper. I know she has a name, but I despise her so much that I don’t care enough to go back and look it up.
Sheriff Lester Burdon from The House Of Sand And Fog. Although a good whack to the head is not going to cure stupidity.
Everyone from The Fountainhead. Even the most minor characters.
Dean Moriarty from On The Road. Although it wouldn’t do any good; he’d probably think it was foreplay or a strange trip.
Woodrow Call from Lonesome Dove. Gus tried to reason with him about Newt, and Clara gave him a good tongue-lashing. Gotta take that next step.
Probably everyone from Atlas Shrugged. I’m not sure, because I didn’t finish it. This is also a case where I’d like to give Ayn Rand a good-sized clip on the ear.
Sam Pollit from The Man Who Loved Children. Extra thumps for constantly breaking into that horrible folksy dialect. It’s the eye equivalent of nails on the chalkboard.
Everyone from Letty Fox: Her Luck, especially the title character. Dubious props to Christina Stead for flawlessly turning out such annoying characters in her novels. That takes a strong stomach.
Athena/Sherine from The Witch Of Portobello. Probably a waste of time. She’s scarcely more than a cardboard character. Still, she’s annoying in all her New-Agey-ness.
Possibly everyone in the Piper family from Fall On Your Knees. I’m not sure about this because I haven’t finished the book yet. But my palm fairly itches to go upside James’ and Frances’ heads. And Mercedes’ as well, for loving that dreadful poem, “Don’t Whine”. [Edited to add: I’m finished with this novel now, and don’t want to smack Frances or Mercedes anymore. James, though…what I feel about him goes far beyond a sock in the nose.]
Are there any fictional characters you’d like to sort out personally?