Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"I'm Going To Slap You So Hard, Your Cousin Will Fall Down!": Characters That REALLY Bug Me!!!

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?


Lisa said...

This is great! I'll have to think on it a while, but I'm sure I'll come up with some. Thanks for giving me a laugh on a rainy morning at work.

jenclair said...

I agree with some of these (wanting to beat the crap out of John Reed is certainly one). I thought it was funny that you mentioned Miss Minchin, too, because all of the books I read when very young were so intensely personal! My indignant response to Miss Minchin was a physical thing.

Philip Carey and Ashley Wilkes! Give it up, guys. Period. Heathcliff and Cathy were a love/hate relationship for me. They were both mean and petty, but the missteps in love were so sad. Also, I saw the old black and white movie before reading the book, so I had some cinematic influence.

But I have also changed my mind as I re-read some things later in life. Most notably, Hamlet (the character) annoyed me in my teens. Make up your damn mind, fella'! Later, I realized that I agonized over decisions and was often reluctant to act and transferred my annoyance with myself to old Hamlet; thus my opinion began a sea change as I analyzed Hamlet's behavior. By the time I was 35, Hamlet was my favorite play. I ended up teaching it instead of MacBeth because after I learned to love it, I could make the kids love it!

trish said...

Hehehe! Great post!

I'd say the whole cast of characters from A House of Sand and Fog. I know you singled one of them out, but they're all pretty much dumb/clueless/pigheaded/irrational. The whole story just annoyed me.

Chrisbookarama said...

That was funny! Yes, Angel Clare is on my list, as well as many of the people in Atlas Shrugged and especially Ashley Wilkes.

I had a very strong reaction to the protagonist in a book no one has probably ever heard of: Cape Breton Road by D R MacDonald. Oh I HATED that kid sooo much!

Jeane said...

I remember having a very strong reaction to characters in The Fountainhead. I couldn't believe how horridly and snidely they treated each other, and ranted about it quite a bit to anyone who would listen!

GFS3 said...

Great list and a fun read. But Dean Moriarty? Say it ain't so! He's a free spirit... a man without boundaries. Irresponsible? Yes. But don't slap poor Dean.

I'd also add Emma Bovary, William Collins (from "Pride and Prejudice"), April Wheeler (from "Revolutionary Road"), and Stevens (from "Remains of the Day).

Kathy said...

I have to think some more about this but I can tell you right now that I've always hated Angel Clare beyond what is reasonable for a fictional character -- and then was annoyed with Tess because she was so stupidly in love with his stupidness. ACK!

Tara said...

This is hilarious! I agree with you on many counts. I read Fall on Your Knees last year and eagerly await your review! That book is really a downer, and if I remember correctly all the characters were pretty unlikable.

Nyssaneala said...

I despise The Fountainhead soooo much, I think I did throw that book across the room. I never did finish it.

This is a great post!

Gentle Reader said...

Lol, this is a great list! Thanks for making my day :)

Anonymous said...

I also read (translation of) "Jane Eyre" at similar age as you and had similar reaction (even if I would not have dared to throw a book, as books were considered sacred by my parents. Even the books whose content was evil were kept somewhere in attic rather than destroyed).

Bybee said...

You're welcome.

I never thought about being irritated with Hamlet...thought he had a lot on his plate with Unc killing Dad and marrying Mom...

I was going to include the lot of them, but Les took the cake because he was a law officer and should've known better.

Now I'm curious about Cape Breton Road...that's funny, that's where the Pipers are from in Nova Scotia.

Oh yeah...The Fountainhead...each thought he or she was all that and
a bag of chips!

I like all your additions to the list, but I'm sorry, Dean M.'s sweating and stammering and running between women just gets on my nerves. If I were younger, he'd probably be on my sexy list. Shudder. Thank God for middle age!

Tess was just too good and trusting and conditioned by her family and society from the very earliest age not to know which end is up. I do wish she could've given AC a big sock in the nose, though!

I kind of liked the Piper family's Jewish next-door neighbors...they were good to Materia -- she was just a kid.

I finished The Fountainhead, but pushed Atlas Shrugged out of a window many years later. I guess Ayn Rand has that effect sometimes.

Gentle Reader,
You've probably got even more ideas for the list, right?

My folks wouldn't have liked me throwing the book. It was part of a huge collection they bought, with classics, encyclopedias, science books, geography books, the works...I think they were still making monthly payments on the lot.

Susan said...

You are so-o-o hilarious, Suzie! I love your list......I read Tess of the Dubervilles but can't remember anything about it (selective university memory!)....so I think I disliked it. I hate, hate, hate, Cathy in Wuthering Heights. I have to admit to having a crush on Heathcliff, so I despised how she treated him (and him for coming back for more, he deserved better!). I thought she was spineless and wimpy and everything boring and bad about being female..yikes, I obviously still have issues with her!
I'll have to think of others, I'm sure i have my own.....I might borrow your idea and blog about it too, since it's a great way to vent and get to know who others like and dislike! thanks!

Susan said...

P.S I forgot to add....Catcher in the Rye....I hate the main character and opening SO MUCH that I never got past page 3!!!! Whiny, whiny, pretentious, whiny slop!!! not the writing, what the character is saying....I've never been able to read it, and promptly chose another book to read in my Grade 11 class. Ugh!

Anonymous said...

Hello, you don't know me. This is the first time I'm commenting, I came across your blog today while procrastinating and I saw this post and had to comment. Thank you for your comments on Cathy and Heathcliff. I completely and wholeheartedly agree. I had to read Wuthering Heights in high school and remember wishing I could jump inside the book and push both of them down a very steep hill, if any were to be found on the moors...

And also, I saw your recent post about Middlemarch. That is one book I am trying to get around to reading soon. :)