I love villains! And I say that with next to no shame. Nothing creates successful tension and plot like an evil heartless bastard at the center of it all. Today I am looking at 10 times the author really shined in villain crafting.
10 Times Authors Nailed it With Fictional Villains
Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984. Okay, so this one is technically symbolic but no less villainous. Portrayed as the leader of a totalitarian state, Ocean, we are exposed to the Party which holds absolute control over society for its own benefit. Perhaps, this villain is most successful because it addresses relevant fears and themes.
“Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed- no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull.”
~George Orwell, 1984
Walder Frey from George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series easily lands a spot in my top 10 Villians. Boasting a terrible arsenal of crimes that range from murder and incest to incredibly horrible hospitality (can we say Red Wedding) this weasel leaves the reader feeling so violated that the hate flows naturally and uncontrollably.
Hal 9000 is a sentient computer in Arthur C. Clark’s 2001: A Space Odessy. There was something completely unsettling about this unlikely antagonist and his ever calm and light demeanor. What Hal 9000 lacks for in physical form, he makes up for in a very unnerving omniscient presence.
The White Witch is no stranger to many us. Appearing in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe, she single-handedly stopped Christmas. Turning her many victims to stone, she is incredibly cruel and responsible for a large amount of unhappiness. As a child, I found this disheartening and terrifying. I still loathe her. I also still have an odd desire to experience Turkish Delight. Go figure.
Thomas Harris’ cannibalistic genius, Hannibal Lecter first appeared in Red Dragon, 1981. As if murder was not a heinous enough crime, Harris upped the ante by adding the element of cannibalism. Include Lecter’s ability to really tap into his victim’s psyche and the whole experience took the unsettling to a brand new level.
“When the fox hears the rabbits scream, he comes a-runnin, but not to help.”
~Hannibal Lecter, Thomas Harris
Amy Dunne from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl earns a spot for redefining femme fatale and running away with it! Brilliant and incredibly manipulative, she offers the reader many reasons to fear her. There is a part of me that was more terrified of the small amount of admiration I felt. The girl has skills.
Sauron really needs no introduction, but for those of you who are incredibly behind the times, he was first mentioned in JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit but best know for Lord of the Rings. Being of a higher order of Maiar and possessing divine powers, he seeks the 10th ring in order to wield its power to corrupt and destroy all that is good. And let us not forget his all-seeing eye. Frightening right?
Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. If being heartless qualifies one as a solid villain, I must award her with a spot today. After having her own heart broken, she takes in young Estella and raises her to do exactly that, break hearts. Perhaps what is most evil here is that she seeks revenge for her own pain through the suffering of others with no regard to the consequence.
Aunt Lydia from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale unnerves me on multiple fronts. Belonging to the Republic of Gilead, she is charged with overseeing and teaching the handmaids. Her techniques that range from cattle prods to many other torturous methods are used to enforce the horrendous rules and laws of the Republic of Gilead. Perhaps it is the thought of witnessing women take up sides against themselves that really did the trick here?
Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.
~The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
Alex from A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess takes the final spot today. While he could possibly be categorized as an antihero, I am including him for his sociopathic behavior and violent tendencies. Everything about Alex is morally wrong and worked in a stellar fashion to convey some heavy hitting themes.
Your turn! Which villains made the biggest impact on you, good or bad?