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Familiar Faces

Ever thought about the characters you liked? Not just like – but Like?
So many of my favorite books, when subjected to a microscope, have very few characters to Like. The books are enjoyable because they involve specific people doing specific things in a specific world at a specific time. The book’s flavor, scenery, dialogue, and the artfulness of the writing combine and contribute to its being beloved. But however much I love Mrs. Dalloway, I think Clarissa is too…Clarissa to truly Like her. Virginia Woolf's books are prized for their phrases, for her shimmering technique, but I don't particularly care about Mrs. Dalloway, or Mrs. Ramsay, or Lily Briscoe.

There are characters which are likeable: Charles Ryder from Brideshead Revisited, Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice, Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet, etc; but we are expected to like them. I feel too strongly led to believe I am acting of my own inclination. For example, one cannot escape the feeling that Liking Harry Potter or Ron or Hermione as characters is lame because one naturally likes them. They are likeable. We see ourselves reflected in them, and they are our friends as well as each other’s. Of course, I can’t help but admit that I happen to Like several characters that I find kinship with. So perhaps it’s entirely arbitrary - but here’s a list anyway. (I love lists.)

Cassandra Mortmain – I Capture the Castle

Odysseus - Odyssey
Hector - Iliad (ironic, these first two)
Earl of Kent – King Lear
Viola – Twelfth Night
Sunny Baudelaire – Series of Unfortunate Events

Marianne Dashwood – Sense & Sensibility
Emma Woodhouse - Emma
Isabel Archer – Portrait of a Lady
Dorothea Brooke - Middlemarch
Provincial Lady – Diary of a Provincial Lady
Edmund Pevensie – Chronicles of Narnia
Winnie the Pooh (and also Eeyore)

Peter Pan
Moomintroll – Moomin books
Mole (also Toad) – Wind in the Willows
Dumbledore and Sirius Black – Harry Potter

Oscar Wilde in any incarnation in his works (eg. anything played by Rupert Everett in the film versions)
Mary Katherine Blackwood – We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Ralph – Lord of the Flies (who doesn't love how he stands on his head when he's happy?)
Guinevere Pettigrew – Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

And I'm sure there are much more that should be on this list and I've forgotten them. I'm sure they'll pop their heads in from time to time.


Ian Woolcott said…
Cynthia Ozick from Quarrel and Quandary:

"Imaginary people can, often enough, claim a greater reality than, for instance, our relatives... We, whatever our current station on the span of three-score-and-ten, are ephemeral. Only make-believe people can endure for long; and some, like Hamlet, are permanent - at least until the sun burns out."

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