Bad characters in Books

Published on 18 March 2023 at 00:37
  1. Looking for characters that appear “on lists,” I came across the “bad guys.” Quite a few authors have puzzled over the popularity of bad guys. According to Heinz Helle in The Guardian ( bad guys make us feel better about ourselves. “I don't know if it's Freud's or Luther's fault, but for some reason perfect people don't inspire readers anymore. They frustrate us. We don't want to be motivated to become better people. We want to make sure that we are good as we are.
    That's why we love hateful characters in literature. Because the more they differ from us in their behavior, the better we feel about who we are. And the more we can forgive them. And in the unlikely event that we share their hateful traits, we can still forgive ourselves. Because then we know that we are not alone with our flaws.”
    Elaborating on this, Lindy ( argues that readers like anti-heroes because the 'bad guy' steals the show. He provides tension, unexpected events and deep emotions. She gives a list of bad characters:
    1.     Professor James Moriarty in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories
    2.     Hannibal Lecter from Thomas Harris books
    3.     Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather by Mario Puzo
    4.     Voldemort in 'Harry Potter' by J.K. Rowling
    5.     Gollum in Lord of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
    6.     Sandor Clegane, a.k.a. The Hound in 'Game of Thrones' by George R.R. Martin.
    7.     Brady Hartsfield in Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
    8.     Francis Ackerman Jr. in I Am the Night by Ethan Cross
    9.     Dexter Morgan from the Jeff Lindsay books
    On other lists of bad or mean characters, for example those in The Guardian ( yet other bad guys are mentioned. I will come back to this next time, as well as to the virtual absence of bad women on the various lists.
    My personal villain is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from The Perfume by Patrick Süskind. Not because he makes me feel good the way I am, but because it fascinates me how Süskind makes it plausible that Jean-Baptiste is disowned by his fellow human beings due to the lack of body odor. They even do not see him. That his obsessive search for the ideal scent makes him a ruthless killer is horrifying but almost understandable in the sequence of events.

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