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Most Dislikeable Hero or Heroine

The Green Dragon

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May 4, 2012, 3:43pm Top

Forgive me if this has been covered before, but I'm curious. And a little soapboxy, because I have harboured an intense dislike for Senor Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever for a long time. He's obstinate, doesn't see what's right in front of him, and sarcastic and sneering. My vote for worst hero of all time (truly Lord Foul's Bane)!

May 4, 2012, 3:44pm Top

How do I get the book to "Touchstone" or hyperlink, by the way?

Edited: May 4, 2012, 3:47pm Top

I am totally with you on that. Lord Foul's Bane.

I tried reading that series, and just could not take it.

BTW you get touchstones to hyperlink by using brackets.

May 4, 2012, 3:55pm Top

Rand and all the women in The Wheel of Time!

May 4, 2012, 4:50pm Top

Thanks, Arctic.

May 4, 2012, 4:58pm Top

I don't know if it counts, but I couldn't stand Oscar in The Tin Drum. Wished him dead.

May 4, 2012, 5:01pm Top

I agree with you # 4 - definately Rand & the women- what wind ups!

Edited: May 4, 2012, 10:46pm Top

Bella Swan from Twilight. She's bound to be mentioned in this thread; I may as well get there first.

It's not often we meet up with a character the author intends for us to like and admire, who is nonetheless devoid of a single positive trait -- kindness, wisdom, courage, intelligence. Yet Bella is this kind of rare creature.

May 4, 2012, 10:53pm Top

KC, I forgot about her. Wimp, and a HORRIBLE role model for young women.

May 4, 2012, 10:58pm Top

I'd list Bella, but I only read one page of the first book, so that doesn't really count for me.

May 5, 2012, 4:08am Top

Oh, I misread the title and thought it said most dislikable villain, which would be odd, since you aren't supposed to like a villain. Then the answers were puzzling me. I wonder if it's my bedtime. I'm gonna have to go look at my low rated books to refresh my memory.

May 5, 2012, 6:09am Top

I have to agree about Thomas Covenant BUT at same time I love the books. And Mhoram and Saltheart Foamfollower are two of my absolute favourite characters - I cried buckets at the giant's death.
One of the major themes of the books is redemption - you can't redeem someone who is good/nice to begin with - and TC pays and pays again for his actions. SD never tries to suggest that he is admirable.
I've never read Twilight but I would say a character who is held up as an admirable role model and yet isn't, is far worse than a character like TC.

I like stories which play with your expectations and can create obnoxious main characters and yet still keep you reading / watching. On TV, House is a good example of this. He is completely obnoxious and unpleasant and a bully. If you knew him in real life, you'd hate him but the series is so cleverly written that you don't hate him - even if you should.
Brent Weeks is good at doing this too in his books - his main characters are killers, liars and thieves but you keep reading.

I've just thought of a character who is held up to be admired and yet shouldn't be - it's a TV character again though (sorry) - Horatio Kane in CSI:Miami - please someone shoot him. He truly is obnoxious.

Edited: May 5, 2012, 9:40am Top

The protagonist of Darkwar would probably rank somewhere up there, she's ok at first but soon becomes a giant Mary Sue undergoing a strange depletion of ethics and character depth.

Seconding the Thomas Covenant and Rand + WoT women mentions, too.

May 5, 2012, 8:42am Top

12: I agree with you completely. If a character is presented as morally gray, a character we're supposed to make up our own minds about, that character is usually FAR less annoying than a clueless, spineless tool of a "heroine" or "hero" whom the author clearly means for us to root for. Twilight's Bella is the ultimate example of this, but there are others. What I've read here and on FantasyFans gives me the impression that Rand from The Wheel of Time is also this kind of character -- presented as a hero to be admired, but drawn with traits that instead make us despise him. (Thanks for the heads-up; I won't be reading that series.)

May 5, 2012, 8:43am Top

>12 infjsarah: That's why I won't watch CSI: Miami even though I love CSI: NY and in general like those kind of detective dramas. That character is also amoral, IMO, and violates the first rule of justice in our country (the rule of law over vigilantism). I blame the show's producers, and so boycott it. It might make for good story-telling, but it upholds a pernicious trait.

Love this thread, though, and will have a think on the OP question.

Edited: May 5, 2012, 9:36am Top

Reuben in Anne Rice's The Wolf Gift is the most recent hero I dislike. He is too good. He speaks with an intelligent, even poetic voice as a werewolf. Give me a rough and tough werewolf any day. (If you saw my reading thread you know that I disliked the whole book.)

I also have to jump on the Bella Swan wagon. I did read the Twilight books and I have watched the movies. Just when you think the acting could not get any worse, the next movie comes out. Yet, I go. *sigh* I agree that Bella is not a good role model for young women. I have heard my students say she is strong young lady, but I just don't see it. She follows the sparkly vampire at all costs and without regard for anyone's safety except his.

I'm sure I can come up with others. :)

May 5, 2012, 10:16am Top

I have disliked some of H P Lovecraft's short-story heroes for being racist, but not enough for me to not finish the story. I recognize that Lovecraft was writing in his time, not mine; but even in such times not every person is racist. And I recognize that it gives color to his writing, but since it crops up in a preponderance of his short stories, it points me past them to Lovecraft's own racism, which seems unfortunate to me.

May 5, 2012, 9:52pm Top

Yes, I am a new fan of Lovecraft's. His writing is hypnotic. You find you can't stop reading. When I was in Quechee a few months ago, I came across a First Edition of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness for only $75.00. I kick myself now for not buying it.

May 6, 2012, 12:11am Top

Oh golly, #16, definitely Reuben in The Wolf Gift! It was like he was a teenaged girl's fantasy of a werewolf! He loves the transformation! It makes him gorgeous! He's rich! He fights evil-doers!
There is no tension in the book because Reuben is a pretty, blank slate. So irritating.

May 6, 2012, 7:13am Top

>15 walk2work: walktowork - Glad someone agrees with me about Horatio Kane. I know it appeals to the human visceral need for revenge on the "bad" guys but I think it's wrong to present it within a law enforcement context. That he can do anything he likes cos he's got the badge and the gun.
And don't even get me started on the child aspect of the plots - makes me want to vomit.

May 6, 2012, 12:32pm Top

Artemis Fowl. Thoroughly dislikeable, the only redeeming thing about him was that he loved his parents.

May 6, 2012, 1:30pm Top

A recent discussion elsewhere reminded me of another character I disliked, that I think I was supposed to like at least on some level: Shona in Dark Lord of Derkholm. Diana Wynne Jones is a very gifted writer whose heroes and heroines, flawed though they might be, are usually very sympathetic. But this one fell a bit wide of the mark.

What is this character like? Well, take Hermione Granger, with all her bossy know-it-all arrogance.

Then proceed to strip Hermione of all the qualities that make her wonderful despite aforementioned bossy know-it-all arrogance: her sharp intelligence; her warm-hearted loyalty; her keen sense of justice; her take-on-all-comers courage.

With all those qualities gone, what's left? Shona, a character so irritating that even her father, while he loves her and will defend her, doesn't like her very much.

May 6, 2012, 2:05pm Top

#21 I hadn't thought of it before, but you're right. He's not even credible.

May 6, 2012, 2:47pm Top

OK, thought of one who annoys me. Stephanie Plum from the Janet Evanovich novels. Yes, she is plucky. Yes, she has a humble outlook on her abilities and a funny sense of humor. What annoys me is her determined ignorance and willful ineptness. She doesn't do anything to improve her skills or abilities in her chosen profession, thus endangering the lives of everyone around her who has to save her when she gets into stupid situations. I get the Lucille Ball aspect of the humor, but when a character stays the same for uptiddly million books, it annoys.

May 6, 2012, 2:59pm Top

that's why I stopped reading them, MrsL. the humor just didn't outweigh Stephanie's stupidity. and the whole lust triangle thing got old, too.

May 6, 2012, 3:37pm Top

>24 MrsLee: Sorry for reverting back to TV again, but that's why I don't watch many comedies after a while. Those sorts of characters - and they're usually main ones - never learn. I don't find them funny after a while, just annoying and painful to watch as they continually hurt the people who love them.

May 6, 2012, 11:33pm Top

OK, Thomas Covenant was my first thought when i read the name of this thread, but I'm going to throw out Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, and see if anyone else felt the way I did. Cathy was no peach, either.

May 7, 2012, 12:03am Top

I don't think anyone in Wuthering Heights is likeable, and I don't think they're supposed to be, either.

May 7, 2012, 2:36am Top

Ignatius in A Confederacy of Dunces. He's the guy you love to hate!

May 7, 2012, 2:56am Top

I wanted to have a slapfest on Heathcliff and Cathy, but mostly on him.

Edited: May 7, 2012, 5:13am Top

I started off really disliking Dalziel from the Reginald Hill books, but ended up loving him ...

May 7, 2012, 9:24am Top

Yes, but he's hatable in such a joyous way, his character created with such craft and precision, that you can't help but love that great big rollicking trainwreck!

May 7, 2012, 11:21am Top

#15/20 - You're not alone. I loved the original CSI (Vegas) but couldn't stand Miami. Not to mention NY (how contrived can it get - "we need that east coast feel, guys, let's do it a bit darker/weirder this time...")

For a main character I truly disliked... Ben Pollard, of C.J. Cherryh's Heavy Time and Hellburner. Paul Dekker is not very likeable, either.

Actually, that's not unusual for Cherryh. A lot of her main characters are hard to like, not to mention I'd probably detest them if I met them for real. That she still get the reader to root for them, to care for what happens - that is real mastery.
She's an author who actually manage to live off her writing but I still think her undervalued by the sf/f community. She's genius!

May 7, 2012, 12:15pm Top

Another vote for Thomas Covenant. Blech.

And I was never able to understand why everyone thought Scarlett O'Hara in Gone wthe the Wind was so wonderful. Why should a character totally lacking any self-awareness, and not really developing much over the course of the story, be admirable?

May 7, 2012, 2:34pm Top

I'm in complete agreement with #12 and #14 regarding Thomas Covenant, and it's mostly because I think I understand the character and his dilemma. I keep finding parallels with the plot and subplots and situations in our lives and politics, for example, on several levels and it fascinates me. I've read lots of other fantasy series and stories, but relative to The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, there's no depth to the characters, and I lose interest. I check Donaldson's web page weekly for news of the last book of the series.

May 7, 2012, 2:42pm Top

This is sort of a book-movie crossover...thing. After seeing Peter Jackson's take on The Lord of the Rings, I don't like the way Tolkien portrays Theodin and Eowyn. They're so...flat.

May 7, 2012, 2:56pm Top

#36 - That's how I feel about his take on Faramir, too. In TTT one of my favourite chapters always were "Ithilien" but if I watch the film version (were it has been moved to RoTK, if I don't remember too badly) I often skip those parts :(

May 7, 2012, 3:00pm Top

#37 - Agreeing with you 100%. He does Eowyn and Theodin so well, and then botches Faramir and Frodo. At the end of The Return of the King, my mom was all but shouting, "Throw him into the volcano!" I found it annoying at the time, but I've come to agree with her.

May 7, 2012, 3:36pm Top

>30 MrsLee: The last time I reread Wuthering Heights, I wanted to slap everyone, from Heathcliff, Cathy and Edgar all the way down to the children.

May 7, 2012, 3:39pm Top

I often want to smack children in books. I think this is due to authors forgetting what they're actually like.

May 7, 2012, 3:47pm Top

So far, Bella from Twilight has it for me. Most others (TC especially, and Rand et al being roughly second in line) are somewhat obviously intended to be irritating and "faceted" characters, all of whom I happen to seriously dislike.

Bella is presented by the author, and depicted in the world of the book, as absolutely perfect in every way, except that she doesn't have much self confidence. I had to read them all (I'm a librarian who works with teens, I couldn't avoid it) and it was a miserable experience. I think I gagged my way through them all.

I also really hated Wuthering Heights, as well as Great Expectations.

May 7, 2012, 3:50pm Top

Fitting, seeing as how Wuthering Heights is Bella's *favorite* book.

May 7, 2012, 6:09pm Top

#34- Yep, I'm right there with you on Scarlett. Blech.

As much as I love some of Dicken's novels, I really dislike some of his spineless, victimish main characters.

May 7, 2012, 6:42pm Top

>34 Marissa_Doyle: I wouldn't want to know Scarlett personally, but I sure do like reading about what she gets up to. She's a force of nature, like a shark.

May 7, 2012, 6:53pm Top

Having just reread Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, it occurs to me in reading this thread how compelling the psychopath/sociopath can be as a character. Even if they give us the creeps, they're still often fascinating.

May 7, 2012, 8:15pm Top

#21 Thank you. I completely agree. I have forbidden few books in this house, but Artemis Fowl was one. I read one book, and refused to let my son read them.

And ditto for Heathcliff and Thomas Covenat. I recently reread Wuthering Heights--and failed complete at understanding its appeal.

May 7, 2012, 8:29pm Top

45 - That explains the success of Dexter (too close to Decker?), Sheldon, and the like, who just have trouble understanding that other people might be affected by what they do. For a different version, Abed from Community is along those lines, but recognises his situation and has various coping mechanisms, making him one of the most likeable and well-adjusted characters, compared to the other characters who do incredibly annoying things in the name of relating to other people. He's completely different to Sheldon, who is the equivalent in the similar-yet-oddly-completely-different Big Bang Theory.

May 7, 2012, 8:33pm Top

43> We rarely read Dickens' novels for their title characters; it's the supporting characters who shine. David Copperfield is a dull cipher, but Aunt Betsey Trotwood is a fierce, glorious force, and her telling-off of David's cruel stepfather and step-in-law is one of the great moments of triumph in literature.

Pip in Great Expectations is one of the most disliked of Dickens' protagonists, and with good reason: he treats almost everyone around him like crap. The people most deserving of his loyalty get it least, and the ones least deserving of his loyalty get it most. If Dickens redeemed him by making him suffer a little more, he might come out all right. Instead he ends up getting what he's always wanted (thanks, Edward Bulwer-Lytton) and learning very little.

Most of Dickens' other heroes, while they're morally upright for the most part, are simply boring. Would that their author could have injected them with even a quarter of the life the supporting characters show!

Even though I found Wuthering Heights compulsively readable when I was a teenager, I am not about to defend its characters.

May 7, 2012, 9:03pm Top

>48 kceccato: Re Wuthering Heights...I think readers fall into two groups--team Jane Eyre and team Wuthering Heights. I read both as a teen, and was thoroughly in the Jane Eyre camp. I always wanted to smack everyone in Wuthering Heights!

May 8, 2012, 12:19am Top

Oh, I thought of another one. Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. That was another book I found compulsively readable in my twenties while hating most of the characters in it.

May 8, 2012, 12:35am Top

Nevare from Robin Hobb's Soldier's Son series, Hobb is my fave author but I had to struggle through that series because I disliked Nevare so much...

May 8, 2012, 1:57am Top

51 - Ooh, yes. Fitz went and did the wrong thing all the time, but for the right reasons. Nevare did the right and wrong things all for the wrong reasons, and was shocked when it bit him in the backside.

May 8, 2012, 8:19am Top

#46--Oh, I read all the Artemis Fowl books, and enjoyed them. To me Artemis was the guy you love to hate. he did show a little growth later in the series. But I really liked the supporting characters, particularly his rival, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon fairy police. And,on occasion the two have to work together. But if you're waiting for a complete reversal of his character, that doesn't really happen. Although he does change somewhat.

May 8, 2012, 12:14pm Top

Humbert, from Lolita - complete creep.

May 9, 2012, 5:54am Top

#54 I'm not sure Humbert was ever intended to be a 'hero' but you're definitely right about him being a creep. Then again, Lolita/Dolores herself is pretty hard to like.

May 9, 2012, 6:27am Top

I would choose a different Donaldson hero than Thomas Covenant. Thomas has a lot of excuses for his behavior and mindset. He's thrown into something not just completely different but diametrically opposed to the only way he can possibly survive. Thomas eventually learns that he as a person isn't defined by his illness and can still effect the world for the better - if you know any seriously permenantly ill people you'll know how hard a lesson this can be. Angus Thermopyle from the Gap Series is a lot worse, just because he can be.

I guess hero/heroines who don't learn from their experiences are those I dislike most, but there aren't that many. I can usually find something in the lead characters to engage with -especially if I'm going to continue reading the series. Although Fitz (#50/51) did come pretty close.

#37 - so agree. Ithillin was ruined in the films, utterly wrong.

May 9, 2012, 7:10am Top

I completely agree in Scarlett O'Hara. What a wretched woman. It's one thing to be strong enough to survive everything she did, but she survived by ruining anyone who got her in way: broke her sister's heart, traumatized her children, the list goes on and on.

May 9, 2012, 8:47am Top

What was wrong with Ithilien in the movies?

May 9, 2012, 2:44pm Top

I can't speak for Ithilien itself (it didn't feel right, but one person's vision is as valid as another's) but Faramir was just WRONG. In the books he was noble, and strong - in his own way. In the films he's just a weakling, dominated by his despotic father.

May 9, 2012, 7:42pm Top

#59 - Yep, that was my biggest gripe with the movie as well, but then I loved what Jackson did with Boromir. Made me fall in love with him in all his frail humanity.

May 10, 2012, 4:55am Top

#60 - One of the strongest scenes in the films, in my humble opinion, is when Boromir dies. You know - "...my King". Jackson makes him into a real human - for Tolkien he never was more than a vessel for showing how low a human can fall; to show that a seemingly strong person can be weak, inside.

May 10, 2012, 9:58am Top

Although, to Tolkein's credit, once Boromir was free of the Ring's influence, he was ashamed of what he had done, not to mention the fact that he fought to save the hobbits to the end.

May 10, 2012, 10:20am Top

#62 - I think that is where film shines over writing, in a death scene like that. I sob every time in the movies, Boromir doesn't need to be perfect, human is good enough. :)

May 10, 2012, 10:23am Top

and here I thought it was just the Sean Bean casting bias...you know, the loveable fuck up. Seems he always got roles like that up to then (his character in Ronin is another example).

May 10, 2012, 11:02am Top

Perhaps, although I don't think there are anything loveable about Boromir, even as I love that last scene. But that might be my book-bias ;-)
That I knew the character too well before I saw the film ;P

May 10, 2012, 11:58am Top

The characters and the plotline that I thought really shone in the movies was Theoden (played by Bernard Hill) and Eowyn (Miranda Otto). Their father-daughter relationship and the added semi-possession of Theoden by Saruman, I thought, strengthened the story over the book.

May 11, 2012, 12:52am Top

#66 - Yep! That's what I was thinking in #36, though I didn't mention the possession. That was also an aspect I preferred from the movie over the book.

May 11, 2012, 9:51pm Top

#53 The writing of Artemis Fowl and company is quite good, and the plot lines are interesting. But there was no way I was letting a preteen/teenage boy even think about identifying with Artemis.

Edited: May 11, 2012, 10:02pm Top

In Tolkienian discussions that I've been involved in, the "hero" that most often gets a high dislikeability rating is Turin in The Silmarillion. He's such a twisted jerk that even his own sword turns against him in the end.

And in "high" Eng Lit, I'd vote for Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair.

May 11, 2012, 11:06pm Top

Every character in Vanity Fair is repulsive, with the possible exception of Major Dobbin. Thackeray intended us to despise them.

Edited: May 12, 2012, 1:24pm Top

>34 Marissa_Doyle: I would agree about despicable Scarlet but I've been told I'm not allowed to due to what's between my legs; apparently she's independent and a hero no matter how rude and self-centered I would like to say she is.

>38 Rozax: I felt that way about Frodo reading the books, please let this part be over so I can read the good stuff!, and I think that's how I came to see the the Thomas Covenent character too: loved the books but enough is enough!

And Boromir's death is in the top 5 emotional, gut-wrenching death scenes in books I think I've ever read.

May 12, 2012, 2:58am Top

#69 - I haven't read The Silmarillion. Was he written as a jerk, or were we supposed to like him?

May 12, 2012, 7:57am Top

I don't think we're supposed to like him: he's a bitter man who compounds his tragic destiny by managing to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. Probably easier to read about in The Children of Hurin rather than ploughing through the whole Silmarillion.

Edited: May 13, 2012, 2:12pm Top

For everyone who like me can't stand Horatio Kane/CSI:Miami - CBS has cancelled the show :)
Or so the talk goes. I hope it's true...

May 13, 2012, 2:22pm Top

I like a lot of Guy Gavriel Kay's characters, but I find Caius Crispus, the hero (?) of his Sarantine couplet, obnoxious and off-putting.

I agree with the opinions on Wuthering Heights. I loved the "group therapy session" held for those characters in the bookworld in one of Jasper Fforde's books.

Jun 7, 2012, 1:36pm Top

I will like to say that one of the most unlikeable hero that I have came across recently is Quentin Coldwater from the The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I found him to be very unlikable because he is so whiney and does not appreciate the fact that he has powers that most people do not have, cool friends, and a awsome girlfriend. He is constanly looking for more better things and he almost loses everything.

Jun 7, 2012, 1:59pm Top

It has to be Cathy & Heathcliff for me too! I will never read that book again-I wasted several hours the first time. Those 2 needed group therapy & maybe even shock therapy as well. I will have to read that Jasper Fforde book-it sounds interesting! 8^)

Jun 7, 2012, 7:59pm Top

Heh, saw the title of the thread and thought 'that moron Thomas Covenant!'

Seems I'm not remotely alone.

I agree on Wuthering Heights also. My lord, those Bronte girls had some issues...

Jun 12, 2012, 8:55pm Top

Kvothe. I think that's his name, from the Patrick Rothfuss books.

Jun 13, 2012, 9:18am Top

CryBel, I forgot about him. He is indeed detestable (although not quite approaching the level of Thomas Covenant). Of course, I also wasn't that impressed by The Magicians, because I thought Grossman was lazy in some of his plotting and didn't do as good a job with shaping the story as he could have. Some of the story just seems rambling, as if he wasn't sure where he was going with it. Still, the character relationships are strong and the last quarter of the novel had some things really beginning to happen.

Jun 13, 2012, 1:36pm Top

>76 CryBel: If you don't like Quentin, you might still enjoy The Magician King. Without giving too much away, Quentin gets some comeuppance and does some overdue growing up. He's not meant to be very sympathetic.

Jun 13, 2012, 1:37pm Top

>79 littlegeek: You know my opinion about Kvothe! What a Marty Stu he turns into, especially in The Wise Man's Fear.

Jun 13, 2012, 2:15pm Top

79> The third book might be better on that front. It's pretty obvious that somehow his entire life will fall apart.

Jun 13, 2012, 5:29pm Top

Even older Kvothe is a bit of an insufferable b***ard. He knows that he's a larger than life hero. That said, against my best judgement, I often find that attractive.

Jun 22, 2012, 6:29am Top

I'm reading my candidate right now. The book is Wilkie Collins's The Dead Secret and the culprit is his heroine, Rosamond. Now I'm a major fan of Collins's books and I consider him responsible for having created one of the great female characters of all time, Marian Halcombe, in The Woman in White but there must have been a massive sea-change in his views about women between writing the two books because Rosamond is one of the most execrably cringe-making females in the whole of English literature - when she's good she simpers on her husband's knee and when she's bad she throws major tantrums at the drop of a hat and treats other people (especially the ones she clearly considers her 'social inferiors' (while insisting she is blind to status/caste/wealth etc, etc) as if she had scraped them off the bottom of her dainty little shoe. At my current point in the story, she's about to start snooping around the Gothic mansion - the bit where I would normally be inwardly begging the protagonist to STAY OUT OF THAT ROOM: in her case I'll be hoping that every locked door will open to reveal a bear trap with upturned knives all over the floor.

Jun 22, 2012, 12:51pm Top

Wow, Rosamond sounds like a guest who stayed at our hotel last week.

Jun 22, 2012, 9:36pm Top

#86 You poor things - you've got my sympathy.

Jun 23, 2012, 9:26am Top

#29 weener - Yes! Ignatius is the poster child for this thread.

Jun 26, 2012, 3:36pm Top

I thought the poster child for this thread would be someone that we all unanimously loathe.

Jun 26, 2012, 5:18pm Top

I can't comment on the frequently-hated Bella Swan. I haven't read it, so I refrain from judgement (at least outside my head).

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