Right now I’m reading the wonderful All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith, an English literature professor who, curious about how Jane Austen’s works would translate elsewhere, takes a year-long sabbatical to travel around certain South American countries and discuss them with readers there. The inspiration for the trip came when she realised that out of all the novels she taught, Jane Austen’s were the ones that her students got most passionate about, often getting into heated debates about who the ‘most smackable’ characters in the novels were.
That got me thinking because for all the many, many kick ass literary characters we all know and love, there are an equal amount of characters that we really would just want to smack upside the head! I’m sure there are a few names springing to mind for all of you right now so take a look at the top culprits for me and see if your literary arch-nemeses show up!
1. Lydia Bennett, Pride and Prejudice – Where to start with Lydia? Self-absorbed, shallow, thoughtless and a few fries short of a Happy Meal to boot, she always makes me roll my eyes and get riled up, no matter how many times I read it. She doesn’t for a minute stop to think what she’s putting her family through when she runs off with Wickham, it doesn’t seem to bother her that he was close with Lizzy for a while, and she genuinely doesn’t seem to have a clue that Wickham is a total player! Lydia thinks of no one but herself and is totally obsessed with the small, shallow things in life and her own concerns. Thank goodness Lizzy and Jane have Darcy and Bingley to compensate for having to put up with her as a sister!
2. Bella Swan, Twilight – I probably should have put Bella first actually because I really, really, really want just want to smack her! It doesn’t seem to bother her that Edward has essentially been stalking her, breaking into her room and watching her sleep for months. Really, Bella?? And when he leaves in New Moon, does she wallow in self-pity for a while with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and cry on her friend’s shoulder like we all would before possibly getting it on with a certain hot werewolf? No, she takes it to a whole other level, first just curling up in the woods and needing to be rescued, then spiralling into major depression with nightmares, alienating her friends, and finally deciding to engage in death defying experiences like jumping off a cliff just to see hallucinatory versions of him?? WTF! Seriously?!!!
3. Joffrey Baratheon, Game of Thrones – If ever there was a cruel, spoiled, vindictive little shit that you are praying with every page you read will meet a sticky end, it’s Joffrey. As a child of an incestuous brother/sister couple and raised by a family obviously modelled on the Borgias, I suppose it’s hardly surprising how he turned out but. But as his cruelty gets worse until even his mother can’t control him, you just can’t help wishing someone would do us all a favour and shove him off a cliff or something! Whether this happens or not I won’t say in case some of you haven’t read it but if you give it a try I guarantee that Joffrey getting bumped off will be one of the most frequent wishes you’ll have when you’re reading!
4. Mr Elton, Emma – A lot of people will think Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice might be the more annoying twat here but for me that honour has to go to Mr Elton. How dare you and that snotty little wife of yours snub poor Harriet like that at the dance! Who do you think you are, Mr Elton?! Luckily my favourite of all the Austen men, Mr Knightley, is there to save the day but it would still be extremely satisfying to open up Emma one day to discover that Mr Elton has been shunned from all polite society and he and that wife of his are forced to live a lonely, cold existence in the middle of nowhere, destined never to see another ball again!
5. Rita Skeeter, Harry Potter – I could have included Draco Malfoy here but I went with Rita purely for all those horrible articles she wrote about our friends at Hogwarts, those annoying Quick Quotes Quill and her habit of always ‘buzzing’ around where she shouldn’t be! Harry and Co have enough to be dealing with without the likes of you, Rita!
What do you think of my top 5?
Who do you think are the most annoying characters in literature?