“THE PAGE TURNERS”
Literature’s Most Dastardly Villains
Another year, another lockdown, another postponed Page Turners meeting, but another opportunity for Book Club members to reflect on characters in books they have read…..and disliked! There are many villains in literature: Flashman in Tom Brown’s Schooldays was considered a scoundrel; whereas Professor Moriarty in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock has been described as a ruthless, vindictive mastermind; the White Witch in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has never been forgiven for killing Christmas! So who do the Page Turners believe is the greatest villain in the books they have read?
May’s choice of villain is Mrs. Reed, Jane Eyre’s aunt, from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. May claims that Mrs. Reed was very unkind to Jane, an orphaned child and her unjustified treatment included locking Jane in a haunted bedroom and sending her off to boarding school with a bad reputation. May appreciates that there are more vicious villains, but they are often more obvious in their treatment of their victims than the shrewd Mrs Reed.
Helen’s most villainous literary character of all time is the boldly ambitious and manipulative Lady Macbeth, from Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. Helen considers Lady Macbeth to be one of Shakespeare’s most infamous and treacherous female characters. She is cunning and power-hungry and the mastermind behind the idea to kill King Duncan. Towards the end of the play she is overcome by remorse and driven insane, but in Helen’s opinion, this does not make amends for her previous evil deeds.
Lynne selected Herbert Powyss, a scientist set on making his name, from the novel, The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan. In 1793, Powyss imprisons a poor farm labourer in his cellar for 7 years, for a generous financial reward, to study the effects of prolonged solitude. Predictably, the experiment is determined to be ill judged and has many unforeseen consequences. Powyss is an example of the upper class barbarity and cruelty of the time and an authentic villain.
Hannibal Lecter, from the novels by Thomas Harris was Babs’s choice. Although Hannibal Lecter is a highly intelligent and charismatic forensic psychiatrist, he is also a serial killer who eats his victims. Babs claims that once you have read about Hannibal, he will always be remembered as the greatest villain.
Nicola’s selection for the title is Alexander Zalachenko (Lisbeth’s father) in ‘the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ trilogy by Steig Larsson. Nicola judges him to be an astonishingly evil character without an iota of humanity; his evil deeds included abusing his wife, leaving her with irreparable brain
damage, disowning his children by never seeking them out and then going to astounding lengths to kill his daughter.
Sylvia nominated Wynstan, the evil Bishop, from The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett. Sylvia kept thinking he couldn’t do anything more evil but he always did; however (spoiler alert!), Sylvia does say,” he gets his ‘come uppance’ eventually.”
Jenny proposed Alec d’Urbervilles from the Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Alec cruelly took advantage of impoverished young Tess, deserts her and her child, and then misuses her again against a backdrop of evil lies, in the guise of an evangelical priest. Jenny deems Alec to be manipulative, selfish and uncaring and thoroughly deserving of the title of the greatest villain.
Undoubtedly, fictional villains can be fascinating: they can be scheming, determined, uncompromising and evil….as the Page Turners have described in their choices of villains. Do you agree with their selections….or is there an even greater villain lurking in a book you have recently read…..?