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Book Magazine's Top 100 fictional characters of the century...

Old 03-19-02, 03:32 PM
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Book Magazine's Top 100 fictional characters of the century...

Just heard an interesting NPR program on this list -- as with all these kind of lists, I take them with a serious grain of salt. I don't consider them the "last word" so much as fodder for discussion. That said, what do you think? I find it hard to argue with some of the picks -- John Updike's "Rabbit" series is one of my favorite reads ever, and who can argue with Holden Caulfield, Atticus Finch or Jay Gatsby? Of course, others might say where's Arthur Dent from "Hitchikers" or anyone from LOTR... Anyway, here's the list....

100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900
From Book magazine, March/April 2002

1 - Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
2 - Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
3 - Humbert Humbert, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
4 - Leopold Bloom, Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922
5 - Rabbit Angstrom, Rabbit, Run, John Updike, 1960
6 - Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1902
7 - Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
8 - Molly Bloom, Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922
9 - Stephen Dedalus, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, 1916
10 - Lily Bart, The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton, 1905
11- Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote, 1958
12 - Gregor Samsa, The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka, 1915
13 - The Invisible Man, Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952
14 - Lolita, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
15 - Aureliano Buendia, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1967
16 - Clarissa Dalloway, Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, 1925
17 - Ignatius Reilly, A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980
18 - George Smiley, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John LeCarre, 1974
19 - Mrs. Ramsay, To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf, 1927
20 - Bigger Thomas, Native Son, Richard Wright, 1940
21 - Nick Adams, In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway, 1925
22 - Yossarian, Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961
23 - Scarlett O'Hara, Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936
24 - Scout Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
25 - Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler, 1939
26 - Kurtz, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1902
27 - Stevens, The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989
28 - Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo, The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino, 1957
29 -Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, 1926
30 - Oskar Matzerath, The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass, 1959
31 - Hazel Motes, Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor, 1952
32 - Alex Portnoy, Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth, 1969
33 - Binx Bolling, The Moviegoer, Walker Percy, 1961
34 - Sebastian Flyte, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945
35 - Jeeves, My Man Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse, 1919
36 - Eugene Henderson, Henderson the Rain King, Saul Bellow, 1959
37 - Marcel, Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust, 1913-1927
38 - Toad, The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908
39 - The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss, 1955
40 - Peter Pan, The Little White Bird, J.M. Barrie, 1902
41 - Augustus McCrae, Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry, 1985
42 - Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett, 1930
43 - Judge Holden, Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy, 1985
44 - Willie Stark, All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren, 1946
45 - Stephen Maturin, Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian, 1969
46 - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1943
47 - Santiago, The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, 1952
48 - Jean Brodie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961
49 - The Whiskey Priest, The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene, 1940
50 - Neddy Merrill, The Swimmer, John Cheever, 1964
51 - Sula Peace, Sula, Toni Morrison, 1973
52 - Meursault, The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942
53 - Jake Barnes, The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway, 1926
54 - Phoebe Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
55 - Janie Crawford, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
56 - Antonia Shimerda, My Antonia, Willa Cather, 1918
57 - Grendel, Grendel, John Gardner, 1971
58 - Gulley Jimson, The Horse's Mouth, Joyce Cary, 1944
59 - Big Brother, 1984, George Orwell, 1949
60 - Tom Ripley, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith, 1955
61 - Seymour Glass, Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger, 1953
62 - Dean Moriarty, On the Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957
63 - Charlotte, Charlotte's Web, E.B. White, 1952
64 - T.S. Garp, The World According to Garp, John Irving, 1978
65 - Nick and Nora Charles, The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett, 1934
66 - James Bond, Casino Royale, Ian Fleming, 1953
67 - Mr. Bridge, Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, 1959
68 - Geoffrey Firmin, Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry, 1947
69 - Benjy, The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, 1929
70 - Charles Kinbote, Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov, 1962
71 - Mary Katherine Blackwood, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson, 1962
72 - Charles Ryder, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945
73 - Claudine, Claudine at School, Colette, 1900
74 - Florentino Ariza, Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1985
75 - George Follansbee Babbitt, Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis, 1922
76 - Christopher Tietjens, Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford, 1924-28
77 - Frankie Addams, The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers, 1946
78 - The Dog of Tears, Blindness, Jose Saramago, 1995
79 - Tarzan, Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1914
80 - Nathan Zuckerman, My Life As a Man, Philip Roth, 1979
81 - Arthur "Boo" Radley, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
82 - Henry Chinaski, Post Office, Charles Bukowski, 1971
83 - Joseph K. The Trial, Franz Kafka, 1925
84 - Yuri Zhivago, Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, 1957
85 - Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling, 1998
86 - Hana, The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, 1992
87 - Margaret Schlegel, Howards End, E.M. Forster, 1910
88 - Jim Dixon, Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis, 1954
89 - Maurice Bendrix, The End of the Affair, Graham Greene, 1951
90 - Lennie Small, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, 1937
91 - Mr. Biswas, A House for Mr. Biswas, V.S. Naipaul, 1961
92 - Alden Pyle, The Quiet American, Graham Greene, 1955
93 - Kimball "Kim" O'Hara, Kim, Rudyard Kipling, 1901
94 - Newland Archer, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton, 1920
95 - Clyde Griffiths, An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser, 1925
96 - Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, 1926
97 - Quentin Compson, The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, 1929
98 - Charlie Marlow, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1902
99 - Celie, The Color Purple, Alice Walker, 1982
100 - Augie March, The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow 1953
Old 03-19-02, 05:31 PM
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Unless I missed something, science fiction was totally ignored.

Gandalf
Michael Valentine Smith
Paul Atreides

etc.

what other genres seem to be missing?

(1984 isn't sci fi - it's excellent political commentary)
Old 03-19-02, 09:35 PM
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What does "best" mean? that is way to vague. The characters that the makers of this thingy liked best I guess. How about Howard Roark, huh? or What's his name from "Stranger in a Stange Land" or the Steppenwof, ferchrist'sake. THis is lame - not the post sierra - I'm not trying to be offensive to you - just the list.
Old 03-20-02, 12:47 AM
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No Randall Flag???

-Steve
Old 03-20-02, 03:39 AM
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Originally posted by Seeker
Unless I missed something, science fiction was totally ignored.

Gandalf
Michael Valentine Smith
Paul Atreides

etc.

what other genres seem to be missing?

(1984 isn't sci fi - it's excellent political commentary)
I was wondering about Gandalf myself. Especially since Harry Potter is on the list! (#85).
Old 03-20-02, 08:59 AM
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I can't really argue with too many of their selections, though I think the list would have been more interesting if they had limited it to one character per author (or one per book). Three from Salinger? And, although I'm not much of a sci-fi or fantasy reader, the omission of Tolkein does strike me as quite odd, particularly because the list is otherwise quite diverse.

My only major beef, though, is the complete exclusion of drama, but perhaps that's a list unto itself.

Some surprises:
- they chose Sula over Sethe or Beloved
- Holly Golightly at #11???
- Ignatius Reilly so high on the list (#17). I don't disagree, but it does surprise me.
- Mr. Bridge, Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, 1959 ??? Never heard of it.
- Three from To Kill a Mockingbird?
- Where the hell is Tom Joad?!!!!!
- and Oedipa Maas? (Crying of Lot 49)
- and Carrie Meeber? (Sister Carrie, 1900)
- and Jurgis Rudkus? (The Jungle)
Old 03-20-02, 10:04 AM
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Originally posted by Darren H
- Where the hell is Tom Joad?!!!!!
The ghost of Tom Joad
Old 03-20-02, 01:24 PM
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Two of the great icons of the 20th C are Superman and Mickey Mouse. I guess that comic books don't count as characters.

They include Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes, but not Conan. They're the most enduring characters to come out of the pulps.

Big Brother wasn't even a character, although Winston Smith was.

As other people have posted, it seems weird to leave out Death of a Salesman, Streetcar Named Desire, and the like.

Who the heck was Phoebe Caulfield? I don't remember her at all. That doesn't make her a great character by my standards.
Old 03-20-02, 01:55 PM
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Phoebe is Holden's little sister -- the one he goes to visit at school.
The ghost of Tom Joad
Huh? Tom Joad of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is one of the century's most iconic characters. All I meant in my post is that it seems odd to have left him off the list.
Old 03-20-02, 02:08 PM
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Originally posted by ziggy
or What's his name from "Stranger in a Stange Land"
Valentine Michael Smith.... --- sorry if I had the name reversed in my earlier post...
Old 03-20-02, 05:05 PM
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It might be me, but I question how a short story character can really be one of the top 100 characters -- I mean Kafka's the trial is only 10 pages long. There's no room for character development or anything.

I'm also surprised about some of the other ones -- Marlowe for "Heart of Darkness" is the narrator. There's nothing special about him. We never find out anything about him. Axel Heyst from "Victory" or Almayer from "Almayer's Folly" would be a much better choice.

Similarly, I find it very difficult to imagine that Herman Hesse doesn't appear anywhere on the list -- for "Siddhartha" if nothing else -- wasn't he a pretty pivotal character for a lot of folks? -- though I'd rather see Magister Ludi from "The Glass Bead Game".

Seriously, is James Joyce really all that and a bag of chips or is some editor just feeling really pretentious?

Tuan Jim
Old 03-20-02, 09:56 PM
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Originally posted by Tuan Jim
It might be me, but I question how a short story character can really be one of the top 100 characters -- I mean Kafka's the trial is only 10 pages long. There's no room for character development or anything.
I think you mean Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," "The Trial" is an (unfinished) full novel. And for my money, Gregory Samsa should be even higher on the list. Nobody could develop a modern character in as few sentences as Kafka, he was truly ahead of his time. Some of the best short story writers (Updike, Flannery O'Connor, Shirley Jackson) can do in a few pages what many writers can't do in a hundred.

I kind of question the inclusion of Dr. Seuss characters and Winnie the Pooh –– are they really characters or something else entirely when it comes to children's literature? I almost feel like children's literature deserves a separate list entirely so as not to muddy the waters.

And it does seem like cheating to list several characters from one work - while Boo Radley is great, Atticus Finch is the heart of TKAM, and ditto with Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. Adding other minor characters seems like overkill and keeps other books out of the running.
Old 03-20-02, 10:39 PM
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Originally posted by Sierra Disc


I think you mean Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," "The Trial" is an (unfinished) full novel. And for my money, Gregory Samsa should be even higher on the list. Nobody could develop a modern character in as few sentences as Kafka, he was truly ahead of his time. Some of the best short story writers (Updike, Flannery O'Connor, Shirley Jackson) can do in a few pages what many writers can't do in a hundred.

I kind of question the inclusion of Dr. Seuss characters and Winnie the Pooh –– are they really characters or something else entirely when it comes to children's literature? I almost feel like children's literature deserves a separate list entirely so as not to muddy the waters.

And it does seem like cheating to list several characters from one work - while Boo Radley is great, Atticus Finch is the heart of TKAM, and ditto with Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. Adding other minor characters seems like overkill and keeps other books out of the running.
You're right. I was thinking of "The Judgement". That's only about 10 pages. (I was under the impression that Kafka's only novel was "Amerika" (also unfinished) but I guess not). But seriously, a Dr. Seuss character, while interesting, is nowhere close to a great work of fiction.

Also, although I loathe him, I'm surprised Faulkner doesn't have anyone further up the list. And really, is James Joyce's stuff that good???

Also, I'm not disputing that "A Hundred Years of Solitude" is a great work of literature, but the characters IMO were all ultimately pretty forgettable -- similarly in "Their Eyes Were Watching God." -- but maybe thats just because I had to read them in class. who knows.

Tuan Jim
Old 03-20-02, 11:01 PM
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Originally posted by Tuan Jim
And really, is James Joyce's stuff that good???
I think he definitely falls in the category of "acquired taste." I've read "Portrait" and "Dubliners" and enjoyed them, but I've tried several times to read "Ulysses" and just haven't been able to do it. I really admire the craft of it and what he was trying to do there was astounding, but it didn't quite connect to me. Basically he was trying to get down on paper what people think - and I'm not talking fancied-up-for-writing thinking but actual stream-of-consciousness what we're REALLY thinking about all day. If you think about it, that's nearly an impossible task. Maybe I'll come back to it when I'm 40. And don't even get me started on "Finnegan's Wake," it makes "Ulysses" look like "Cat In The Hat."
Old 03-21-02, 01:12 AM
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Originally posted by Seeker


Valentine Michael Smith.... --- sorry if I had the name reversed in my earlier post...
oh - oops. Well at least we were on the same wavelength even if I was a little behind.
Old 03-21-02, 01:17 AM
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I think Joyce is that good - though I haven't gotten all the way through Ulysses - I think it is my problem, not any sort of deficiency in the writer. And Faulkner plainly got robbed on the list. Benjy is hardly a character - why not popeye from Sanctuary. I didn't like that novel nearly as much as some of the others I've read, but Popeye is a very memeroble character.
Old 03-21-02, 08:41 AM
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Also, I'm not disputing that "A Hundred Years of Solitude" is a great work of literature, but the characters IMO were all ultimately pretty forgettable -- similarly in "Their Eyes Were Watching God." -- but maybe thats just because I had to read them in class. who knows.
I agree completely with you on 100 Years. It's obviously a helluva novel, but, to me, the individual characters are dwarfed by the epic scope of the story. It's been three or four years since I read it, but I can't remember a single, distinct character. As for Eyes, I actually would have put Janie higher on the list.

Chalk me up as another reader who greatly respects Joyce, but who has never been able to actually finish Ulysses (and who has never even made an attempt at Finnegan's Wake).
Old 03-21-02, 04:15 PM
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I think that Book Magazine's list of top-100 characters is skewed towards their Anglo-Saxon Christian readership/clientele. C'mon, you don't want to alienate your readers by including characters from sighience-fiction, comix, or manga, do ya? Also, if it is unchristian, it cannot be listed as influential by some publications.... Anyways, there are manga/comics that have way outsold in their printed form both quantity and dollar-value any number of books listed in Book Magazine and which have spawned movies in addition, but their characters are no-where as influential as say, Oedipus Rex (my hero and who i aspire to be like). Oops, that comment was meant for the Other forum.

Top-100 characters might also be though of as "What is the popular name associated with an influential archetype?". If so, then the Top-100 list might as well be a list of influential archetypes.

There are a number of books at Amazon.com listing the "Top 100" in various categories such as fictional characters of all time, mystery novel characters, etc. There also a number of top 100 fictional characters listed at the website:

The Fictional 100: The 100 Greatest Fictional Characters in World Literature and Legend.

You can look up the above-mentioned book at Amazon via THIS LINK of the book that explores the cultural and literary significance of the Top-100 one hundred most influential characters from literature.

FOLLOWUP:

From the above website, the following characters were gleaned:

01 -- Hamlet
02 -- Odysseus
03 -- Don Quixote
04 -- Eve (as in Adam & Eve)
05 -- Genji
06 -- Oedipus (Rex)
07 -- Don Juan
08 -- Chia Pao-yü
09 -- Sherlock Holmes
10 -- Arjuna (india)
11 -- Adam (as in Adam & Eve)
12 -- King Lear
13 -- Scheherazade
14 -- Achilles
15 -- Job
16 -- Hercules
18 -- Othello
22 -- Percival (aka Perceval, a knight)
23 -- Romeo
24 -- Juliet
25 -- Alice (wonderland version)
26 -- Medea
28 -- Troilus
29 -- Cressida
30 -- Noah
31 -- Huckleberry Finn
33 -- Frankenstein
34 -- Jean Valjean
37 -- Madame Bovary (huh? no way!!)
39 -- Hlakanyana (african)
40 -- Cinderella
44 -- Tokubei (japanese)
45 -- Ohatsu (japanese)
46 -- Wakdjunkaga (American Indian)
50 -- Tristan
51 -- Isolde
53 -- Anna Karenina
61 -- Jane Eyre
62 -- Captain Ahab
63 -- Shakuntala
64 -- Brothers Karamazov (brother 1)
65 -- Brothers Karamazov (brother 2)
66 -- Brothers Karamazov (brother 3)
67 -- Dr Jekyll / Mr Hyde
70 -- Emma
72 -- David Copperfield
73 -- Scrooge
80 -- Superman
81 -- Falstaff
82 -- Uncle Tom
83 -- Dorothy Gale (huh?)
90 -- Tarzan
92 -- Scarlett O'Hara
97 -- Colonel Aureliano Buendfa
99 -- Holden Caulfield
100 -- Beloved (woman who killed her children...)

Last edited by Startide; 03-21-02 at 04:45 PM.
Old 03-21-02, 07:32 PM
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Top-100 characters might also be though of as "What is the popular name associated with an influential archetype?". If so, then the Top-100 list might as well be a list of influential archetypes.


--


Exactly. You know a fictional character has "made it" when they enter into the mainstream of language....

Oedipus (complex)
Achilles' (Heel)
(the strength of) Hercules
(Don't be a) Scrooge!
Old 03-21-02, 09:04 PM
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Originally posted by Seeker

Exactly. You know a fictional character has "made it" when they enter into the mainstream of language....

Oedipus (complex)
Achilles' (Heel)
(the strength of) Hercules
(Don't be a) Scrooge!
How "Quixotic" of him, tilting at windmills. ;p

He's an Uncle Tom.

off the top of my head.

Tuan Jim
Old 03-22-02, 08:46 AM
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100 -- Beloved (woman who killed her children...)
Sethe is the mother (who killed her child, not children); Beloved is (probably) Sethe's daughter.

Oh yeah, and Ahab should have been higher.
Old 03-23-02, 03:12 PM
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Yossarian rules....


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