Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Fictional 100: The World's Most Influential Literary Characters

Some fictional characters step off the page to become cultural icons.
In The Fictional 100: Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend Lucy Pollard-Gott identifies the top 100 fictional characters based on their impact on history, the arts, their longevity, and inter-generational appeal.

Each character is presented with an epigraph in their own words, a synopsis of the story, an analysis of character, and a history of their reinterpretation over time in the media and the arts. The characters exclude any based on historical figures but do include legendary ones. They are culled from  literary traditions across time and the world.

Few people may still read R. L. Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but because the story has been made into movies, Jekyll/Hyde has become universally recognized. Jean Valjean of Les Miserables found fame in Le Miz but I doubt many of his fans ever read the Victor Hugo book with its long sections on French history.

Hamlet ranks as No. 1 on the list. Interpretation of Hamlet's character has fueled many a critical and psychological study, and actors and directors continue to bring their own slant. The play's influence is international; there is a huge Shakespeare following in Japan today. (World's Elsewhere by Andrew Dickson is about the Bard's international influence.)

Following Hamlet in the rankings are Odyssus (Ulysses), Don Quixote, Eve, Genji, Don Juan, Chia Pao-yu, and Sherlock Holmes.  Many readers will recognize most of these names. Chia Pao-yu, though, was new to me and reading the chapter offered me an education in Chinese literature. I learned that Dream of the Red Chamber was published in 1792 and addresses 'universal issues of the human heart' that are 'explored through the destiny of one fragile, enigmatic boy--Chia Pao-yu."

I enjoyed looking for my favorite characters and reading their essays. Another time I will decide to read about the characters from books I have not read, after which I expect some TBR books will appear on my wish list. This is a nice resource for a reader's library.

I received a free book from the author through a give-a-way. This does not influence my review.