“100 Best Fictional Characters Since 1900”

…at least according to Book magazine in 2002.

“Best of” lists are overdone and hopelessly subjective (which is half of the fun of them, I guess*), and neither Kakaner nor I can ever get enough of them. I don’t even know what the criteria for “best” are here – though I assume it orbits somewhere around “compelling” and “beloved” – but the range represented is certainly interesting. The list covers everyone from the Little Prince and Atticus Finch to Stephen Maturin and, of course, Harry Potter. Jay Gatsby takes #1, followed by Holden Caulfield at #2. There are also several non-human representatives, including Winnie-the-Pooh, Toad from The Wind in the Willows, and the Dog of Tears from Blindness.

If you had to choose one fictional character as your absolute favorite, could you do it? (Say that the motivation is that some nefarious individual is holding a match to your only copy of your favorite book, unless you decide.)  Is s/he/zhe/it from your favorite book, or is there no correlation?

* the other half of it is complaining about omissions that seem obvious to you.

9 thoughts on ““100 Best Fictional Characters Since 1900””

  1. HUMBERT WHAT HUMBERT WHAT

    Scarlett O’Hara is a definite

    butttt… what happened to jane eyre?

    yea i’m not sure what criteria they were using. it seems like a regurgitated top100 books list or something

  2. Stephen but not Jack? I find that odd.

    With my usual caveat that I hate choosing a favorite anything but especially a favorite literary anything, Anne Shirley is up there. And Betsy Ray (I was noticing a curious dearth of woman authors. Come on people!). And Harry Crewe. But I’d better stop there.

  3. I’m checking characters off on a mental list, and ….Arthur Dent is the winner.
    Possibly Bellis Coldwine, though for some reason I’m always partial to Meiveille’s minor characters.

  4. caramon from dragonlance…

    a gentle giant who has to comfort but confront the evils of the world
    …in his own brother

    author of tracy hickman and margaret weis

  5. Maureen – I’m delighted but not at all surprised that you also read the Betsy-Tacy books. So under-read! I’m not sure who’s more of a hero to me, Betsy or Anne Shirley.
    Also, nice catch re: weird lack of female authors. I’m not sure what it means, but it is certainly interesting.
    Also also, I must guiltily admit to not having read the Master & Commander books yet, though the first is sitting on my shelf.

    Anda – Woo, Arthur Dent! Have you read Gaiman’s Neverwhere? I always feel as though Richard Mayhew is a successor to Arthur Dent. Oh those mild-mannered, much-beleaguered Englishmen.
    The secondary Bas-Lag characters do tend to be fascinating, don’t they?

    Kim – He would be your favorite. :) I’ve never read the Dragonlance books, but one of my friends is a big fan.

  6. I can’t choose. Mostly because I really, really, really like a lot of characters, but for all different kinds of reasons, so no one char trumps all the others.

    Maybe Eärendil? But I like him more for what he represents than his actual character (which we don’t really know much about anyway!).

  7. I’ve only picked up American Gods* so far. Neverwhere has been both wholeheartedly recommended and bashed as his weakest work and descent into “generic fantasy”. Albeit the last one came from a few disgruntled Sequential Professors (with otherwise excellent taste in literature).
    So it’s never been on the immediate shopping list. That has been amended.

    * Yes I know, no Sandman?

  8. Vega – Yeah, it’s a pretty mean question anyway. But I think that Eärendil is both a great representation of the Tolkien universe, and of you. :)

    Anda – I agree that Neverwhere contains a lot of derivative/predictable elements, but it’s one of my favorite comfort reads for that reason. I think that one place where Gaiman actually excels is taking a number of pretty standard fantasy elements (in the case of Neverwhere, an unexpected hero, a waifish heroine, a stoic warrior woman, etc.) and recombining them in ways that are just a little bit off-kilter or unexpected, and with a deliciously dark, slippery atmosphere. That’s my favorite part of Neverwhere – the dark-smoky-glittery feel of it; it makes me want to be one of the characters. It’s also pretty funny, which is rarely pulled off in fantasy books, IMO.

    But yes, you should get on Sandman, too. It’s one of those series that I like more and more with time. What do/did you think of American Gods, if you’ve started/finished it?

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