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Five inspirational literary characters

Week Twelve Books by Marty Hadding via Flickr

Katherine Payne lists her top five most inspirational book characters of all time.

1) Severus Snape, Harry Potter series

J.K. Rowling’s triple-agent potions master is dear to a whole generation; in The Guardian’s poll he was voted the most popular Harry Potter character. Perceived as a villain, Snape’s heroism remained unknown to everyone but the man he served. His actions since the first book involved protecting a boy he couldn’t help but hate in order to make up for past mistakes, particularly to the woman he had always loved. As Harry rightly says at the end of it all: “he was the bravest man I ever knew.”

2) The man, The Road

Not to be confused with On The Road by Jack Kerouac – a VERY different novel! This might seem an odd pick for a list of inspirational characters as we never even know the man’s name. Nonetheless, McCarthy’s simplistic writing style (he didn’t even use speech marks!) is pervaded with this man’s instinct to protect his young son. This instinct is the sole force that drives the man to walk hours every day to vague destinations: forward is the only unquestionable route. The film adaptation of this fantastic novel is also worth a watch.

3) Finnick Odair, The Hunger Games series

The Hunger Games series comes hand in hand with its “Girl on Fire” heroine, Katniss Everdeen. However, many characters have their own poignant stories. Adored by the Capitol audience during the 65th Hunger Games, Finnick knew how to gain public support in order to survive. He is inspiring because he is genuine, his celebrity persona acting as a shield to his true feelings. He even adapted difficult experiences – like being forced into prostitution – to his own advantage by gathering secrets from important figures. Throughout, he always sought to marry Annie, the girl he unwaveringly loved. There’s a lot more to Finnick than his sexy witticisms and strength, which is why he’s such an appealing character.

The Hunger Games by Kendra Miller via Flickr

4) Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s wit and timeless female characters makes her one of my favourite novelists, and Elizabeth Bennet is by far her most famous protagonist. Growing up amongst four sisters meant the dream of marriage was inescapable, yet Elizabeth respects her own identity above that of any man’s. She openly mocks the idea of marrying for convenience, and her conversations with Mr. Darcy are always sharp and clever. Whilst she does end up married, it’s out of love rather than obligation. She’s not only inspiring to readers, but also to writers – Bridget Jones’s Diary, one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, is based on Pride and Prejudice.

5) Lisbeth Salander, Millenium series

This is probably the most controversial candidate on the list. Lisbeth is not an easy character to understand, yet her nonconformity, intelligence and strong moral compass makes her one of the most fascinating female characters of the last decade. Her tough experiences evoke sympathy from readers, yet it is not in her nature to ask for help from anyone; self-preservation is ingrained in her. Whilst her understanding of right and wrong might not follow lawful rules, she acts to punish those who deserve punishing – recklessly, yet with inspiring bravery.

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