How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The People in the Pages

I hope you had a blessed and meaningful Memorial Day!

Fictional characters, from classical to contemporary, from others to my own (both born and unborn), have been occupying my thoughts. I usually am pondering some aspect of fiction writing off and on throughout the day, and of late that aspect has been the people that are the stories. Today, though, my focus is on favorite characters.

I believe there are many, many ways to do a character “right,” and it varies so much with both the story’s and the character’s purpose and style that we can’t draw strict conclusions about anything except the obvious dos and don’ts. And the obvious are so obvious I won’t go into them here. Besides, every reader likes different kinds of characters, and my set of criteria for a likeable character isn’t going to be the same as yours. But I have noticed a pattern for the characters I call overall favorites. They’re people I admire or identify with or wish I could be like. As such, they’re usually female. Here are examples:
  • Elinor Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility and Anne Elliot of Persuasion: strongly principled yet polite and self-sacrificing, capable.
  • Molly Gibson of Wives and Daughters: sweet, principled, selfless.
  • Cora Munro of The Last of the Mohicans: courageous, strong, stoic.
  • Jo March of Little Women: creative, tomboyish, honest (some of her traits I’d like to avoid, but I’ve always appreciated her … sincerity).
  • Cecilia Beverley of Cecilia: intelligent, unassuming, generous.
  • Jane Eyre: intelligent, deep-thinking, unique, principled.
 In general, these ladies have a strong sense of right and wrong, even if they stumble at times. They also can be very brave when called upon. I could also add Rebecca of Ivanhoe, Masouda of The Brethren, and Christy of Christy.

File:Angelica Kauffman - portrait of Lady Elizabeth Foster.jpg

And then—though this list isn’t exhaustive, either—there are the people I wish I could know:
  • Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice: witty, frank, one of those people whose good opinion is worth having.
  • Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables: open, fun-loving, romantic, talkative, intelligent, deeply literary.
  • David Balfour of Kidnapped: nice, unassuming, relatable, able to be rooted for. (I feel, though, that Alan Breck Stewart is a necessity to set him off; therefore they come as a pair.)
  • Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey: ironic but kind and attentive.
  • Miss Alice of Christy: a wealth of wisdom and experience.
  • Margaret Hale of North and South: relentlessly searching for the right of a matter, fearless, someone who seeks out friends.
  • Daniel Deronda: gentle, considerate, seeking, principled.
These people run the gamut of personality types!


Not all of the books I’ve read have contained definite favorites; sometimes I enjoy several characters equally. I’ve noticed this especially as I got older. Is that a sign of maturity on my part? As you get older, you tend to better tolerate different personality types and appreciate what each one has to offer. For instance, I’m reading Mansfield Park. When I read it the first time, I leaned decidedly toward the protagonists Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price as favorite characters. But this second read-through a few years later has me taking greater interest in Henry and Mary Crawford. I enjoy reading about them just as much as the other two and I’m fascinated with trying to figure out their personalities. I don’t admire them, but their complexity interests me. Books like A Tale of Two Cities and Silas Marner have me watching the whole cast with interest as their diverse personalities and goals interact.

Who are your favorite characters? What defines them? Do you like them because they’re unlikely heroes? Virtuous? Funny? Complicated? Endearing? Courageous?


  1. Hey! You hit on many of my favorites Elizabeth Bennet, David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart chief among them! :-)

    1. Cool! I think you and I definitely value the same types of protagonists. That's why I enjoyed Fia and Ilido so much. : ) Strong women who are women (not desiring to be men) are who I really enjoy.
      David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart are probably one of the best pairs in all of literature. I can see them interacting as clearly as if they're on a movie screen!
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Ooh, interesting topic!

    Alan Breck Steward is definitely a favorite... ;) He and David make an excellent pair.

    My favorite characters tend to be male, because I have such a hard time finding female characters that I can really like; many of them are too meek, and even more it seems like these days are the "tough girls" that annoy me.

    I think I like the unlikely hero sort of character, the ones that seem as if they might not be on the right side at first, but can grow/change and have a great capacity for good. But I also like the very heroical sort of knight-in-shining-armor type, the kind of really nice person that you would want to meet and hang out with. Mysterious characters are also fascinating to me; I like trying to figure out what is going on with them.

    I've been thinking I should do a post about my favorite kinds of characters...

    Great post, Kelsey! :)

    1. *Stewart. Wouldn't he just be mad at me if he saw I spelled his name wrong! XD

    2. Thank you for your response!
      That's very interesting about what you like. I can see why you would like male characters---you bring up very valid points. I think girls in adventure literature are very hard to do right (or at least, the way we want them done!).
      Aha, so that first description explains why you like Hawkeye so much? : ) I don't know, he's the first one that came to mind when you said that about unlikely heroes.
      Oh yes, please do a post on your favorite kinds of characters! There's a lot more to be said!