Saturday, September 14, 2013

Literature's 11 evilest characters

Koren Zailckas's new novel is Mother, Mother.

One of her 11 favorite evil characters, as told to Publishers Weekly:
Mr. Hyde, from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Evil intersperses cruelty with kindness. Almost ninety years before the Norrmalmstorg robbery that brought about the term “Stockholm Syndrome,” Robert Louis Stevenson had an uncanny understanding of the way evils bonds with its victims. What keeps people locked in dangerous relationships? It’s Evil’s changing face--the way mind games are preceded by flattery, the way discord is glossed over with promises.

The most painful thing about Evil is the duality of the feelings it inspires in us. As Jekyll says, “If each [good and evil], I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable...” Evil is freaky because we love and loathe it in equal parts, and we give it countless chances to redeem itself.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also appears on Stuart Evers's list of the top ten homes in literature, H.M. Castor's top ten list of dark and haunted heroes and heroines and John Mullan's list of ten of the best butlers in literature, and among Yann Martel's six favorite books. It is one of Ali Shaw's top ten transformation stories and Nicholas Frankel's five best pieces of decadent writing from the nineteenth century.

Also see: The 50 greatest villains in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue