The villain is the character that most people tend to not associate themselves with. Who would want to be linked to a moral corrupted, evil, devilish, manipulative characters that we so often see in novels of new and old. Of course it is the villain’s job to direct the plot to anyway they wish, they already know what is going to happen and they are able to take advantage of other characters. It is often said that the villain is an accomplice to the author, how they work together to bring down the noble main characters we, as the reader, all root for. It is also well-known to many readers that the villain often faces a destructive end; mainly death or a mental destruction leaving them unable to cope with life as they know it. The villain often gets what is coming to them, but that is not always the case. We, as the reader, do not wish to identify with the villains of books but we often thrive upon their actions to stir up the story; to make it more exciting. Here are the characters and works that Faulks mentions in this episode:
– Robert Lovelace, Clarissa or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson; Robert is womanizing, seductive, evil man whose main goal in the novel is to have the heroine, Clarissa. He pretends to have changed his ways to better suit himself for her, but Clarissa is too clever to give into such tactics. Robert becomes obsessed and consumed by his desire to posses her as well as her body. Robert thinks himself a God to all women; he is out for Clarissa and to ruin her family as best he can. Robert, like most villains, meets his ending in a duel with another man. He does win part of his war over Clarissa but will meet the fate of many villains.
– Fagin, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens; Fagin in the novel is not the same character we have come to adore in the musical; he is much more dark and sinister. He has power over people in which he makes them do his dirty work. He threatens people and with those threats comes fear from his victims which allow him to control them. Fagin only chooses those he knows he can easily control like his gang of children or Nancy, a prostitute without any self-confidence or morals. Most modern critics could have considered him to be a certain type if pimp; which allows undertones of a sexual nature to come into the novel. Fagin, with his cruel manipulation over those beneath him, almost grew out of the book; Dickens knew better and had killed him off to keep this from happening.
– Count Fosco, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins; Fosco is a character that the phrase, “it’s too good to be true” applies to perfectly. He is intelligent, charming, urbane as well as menacing, corrupt, and misleading. He enjoys playing games with Marian, one of the main characters, to see if he can have an influence over her. Fosco thrives off having power over people; to either persuade or control them to do what he wishes. He doesn’t have a moral frame-work because he doesn’t answer to anyone; he lacks the black/white morals we are so used to. Everything to him is deep shade of grey, allowing there to be the ability to change it to his liking.
– Steerpike, Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake; Steerpike is a kitchen worker who has life plans of his own to take over the city of Gormenghast. He has the power to manipulate people; this is due to the fact he understands them but does not like them. Steerpike is described of being a character that is like a series of mirrors; he is able to give off any image, perceive to be any person you would want him to be. You only see the person Steerpike is towards you, not who is really is. He is consumed by power; power over people, over the world and to dominate everything around him. Steerpike goes mad with the consumption of becoming power-hungry and his ambitions become too big for himself. He meets his death in a duel, when he tries to bring war to his town.
– Jack, Lord of the Flies by William Golding; Jack ends up becoming the villain in the novel due to his lack of understanding of what it means to be an adult. He has a false perception to how adults should act, and this mixed with a desire for danger and thrills, makes him a very aggressive character. He pretends to be vulnerable to gain the other boys sympathies to have them join his group and go against the other boys. This novel shows the cruelty that boys are capable of when put into drastic situations. Jack feels he is doing what is right by those around him; he becomes consumed by the responsibility and the power given to him by the others. He takes advantage of it and relishes in it.
– Ronald, The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott; Ronald is the villain we all dread because we eventually see some of his characteristics in ourselves. He is more consumed by the power that his job, as a police officer in India, gives him which allows him offend anyone he chooses. Ronald is a dangerous character in the sense that he is unpredictable; the reader is not sure what he is going to do next or what his next actions will be. He is complex and is so tightly wound up that he cannot find anyway of escaping his inner tension. He doesn’t have a moral compass that he cannot tell what is right and wrong; he doesn’t care who he hits, hates or offends as long as he feels better as the end. He strives to be the best and have control over minorities as a policeman allows him to gain that power.
– Barbara, Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller; This is a different sort of novel in that the narrator is our villain, but she isn’t a villain at first, she later develops into one. She lures in the reader with her normalcy, with her wit and sense of humor so that the reader feels more comfortable with her. She also allows the reader to feel sympathy towards her due to the fact she suffers from severe loneliness. It is the witnessing of an affair between a fellow teacher and student that allows her to gain power over the fellow teacher. Barbara is able to persuade, manipulate, betray the other teacher to do what she feels to better her own situation. She has become the person that has control over her victim; that they are totally dependent upon her. Barbara is the only villain that wins in the end.
We have a tendency to see characters of ourselves in the villains of novels; whether it’s to better your own situation, to gain power or respect, or maybe it is to have control over situations or people. They are able to teach us something about ourselves; they show us our dark side to our own personalities. Many there are traits we wish to ignore but with these characters the traits are able to show their ugly head.
It is not only the villain that we relate to but it is also the snob, the lover and the hero. Each one has their own special role in the novel and we as readers are able to relate with them all in some way. We share a special relationship with characters and we connect with them on a personal level. Many characters will outlive all of us but it does not mean we cannot spend time with them and get to know them. Novels are there to show us sides of ourselves we were unaware we had and to allow us to interact with characters we may not do in our real lives. They have an effect on us, whether good or bad they are always remembered.
– Clarissa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarissa
– Oliver Twist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Twist
– The Woman in White: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Woman_in_White_(novel)
– Gormenghast: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gormenghast_(novel)
– Lord of the Flies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_the_Flies
– The Raj Quartet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Raj_Quartet
– Notes on a Scandal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notes_on_a_Scandal
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