|Melanie and Mammy, my favorite GWTW characters|
After much thought, I arrived to the conclusion that I will read a novel over and over again, to the point that it merits a place in my lengthy list of favorite works of literature, for two reasons: atmosphere and characters to die for. Usually the bond developed between readers and those characters stem from four emotions: identification, empathy, admiration and fascination.
Identification: The reader relates to the character, they share common traits, mores or tastes. They may share similar backgrounds, cultures, faith, and ideologies. Sometimes a character could be confronting a problem, dilemma, or situation similar to what the reader is undergoing. They may even be in the same line of work. I remember enjoying Anne of Windy Poplars much more than Anne of Green Gables, because when I read the Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novels, I was teaching at an all girls’ school. I could and did relate to Anne’s teaching experiences and her problems with her students.
Empathy: The character goes through a situation totally alien to the reader, but the latter understands the character’s motivations and imagines he/she would do the same in that situation. I have never attended a witchcraft school like Hogwarts, yet I know if I had, I would behave just like Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series.
Beth March is the least loved of the Little Women, but when I was very ill, a couple of years ago; it was she whom I selected as a model of valor and endurance. I also loved Melanie in Gone with the Wind because she possessed both, physical and spiritual courage unlike Scarlett who was a moral coward.
I have always admired characters that are willing to stand up for their beliefs even if it causes them grief. As a I child I adored Ligia in Quo Vadis because she was willing to live in poverty rather than become a dissolute Roman patrician’s concubine, and Ivanhoe’s Rebecca threatening to jump from a window rather than surrendering to Sir Brian’s lust moved me to tears of respect. And even though it breaks my heart, I stand with Julia at the end of Brideshead Revisited when she refuses to divorce, in order to marry her true love, because it goes against her Catholic faith.
Julia's Farewell in Brideshead Revisited
Fascination: This is an old quirk of mine. Since childhood I was in the habit of developing crushes on literary heroes. My mother claims that I was in love with Sinbad, the Sailor before I learned to read!
Though embarrassing to confess, I am sure there is more than a bookworm out there who uses protagonists as reference for ideal lovers. Or maybe a fictional character does remind you of an old flame. Then there are characters that represent our secret object of desire, but are only safe to encounter between the pages of a book. My list of fictional paramours (going back to my childhood reading material) is huge, from Hector in The Iliad to Ari Be Canaan in Leon Uris’ Exodus, from Petronius in Quo Vadis to Stendhal’s Julien Sorel.
Now that I have shown you mine, show me yours. What does a character have to do for you to get hook on him/her? And what fictional people do you admire, feel close to, or have fallen in love with?