Saturday, September 14, 2013

Eleven of literature's more evil characters

Koren Zailckas's new novel is Mother, Mother.

One of her 11 favorite evil characters, as told to Publishers Weekly:
Tom Ripley from Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley

Evil wants status, even if it has to fake it or steal it. Living in New York at the book’s start, Ripley is “bored, goddamn bloody bored, bored, bored,” enduring “constant demoralization because of having no money,” and taking up with “silly, stupid people in order not to be lonely or because they could offer him something for a while.” Leaping at the chance to go to Italy and bring home Dickie Greenleaf, the playboy son of a shipping magnate, Ripley finds what’s he’s actually been missing: a personality, and a larger than life one at that. First making a study of Greenleaf’s mannerisms, interests, preferences and past, Ripley goes on to assume his name, wear his clothes and cash his checks, murdering (or trying to murder) anyone who suspects the truth.

Ripley is a chilling example of the way Evil sizes people up, taking an interest only in things it feels it can use to its advantage. And Highsmith leaves us with this frightening reminder: faced with its own inconsistencies, Evil would rather kill the person doing the questioning than take a realistic look at itself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Alex Berenson's five best list of books about Americans abroad John Mullan's list of ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries list, the Guardian's list of the 50 best summer reads ever, the Telegraph's ultimate reading list, and Francesca Simon's top ten list of antiheroes.

Also see: The 50 greatest villains in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue