Let’s face it: when you read a lot, you’re going to meet some characters you love and others that you, well, don’t like so much. Sometimes you’re not supposed to like these characters; their irritating qualities are meant to prove a point or demonstrate the themes of the book. Then there are some characters that the author wanted you to like, but you just can’t. Here, I have compiled a list of some of the literary characters that have annoyed me the most—some of them were destined by their creators to annoy readers, while others just couldn’t convince me to like or care about them. Feel free to share your most annoying literary encounters in the comments!

Mrs. Bennet, Pride & Prejudice

There are worse, crueler parental figures in classic literature, but I’m not sure any of them are quite as annoying as Mrs. Bennet. She spends the entire novel whining about her “poor nerves” and obsessing over finding rich husbands for her daughters, all while being too stupid to realize she’s embarrassing said daughters and possibly scaring away potential suitors. To make matters worse, Mrs. Bennet also constantly indulges her youngest daughter Lydia, raising her to become an obnoxious, selfish young woman with no regard for her own family. Lydia could’ve easily gotten her mother’s spot on this list, but since her horrid behavior is largely her mother’s fault, Mrs. Bennet is the most annoying character in this novel.

Ashley Wilkes, Gone with the Wind

Southern gentleman Ashley Wilkes endures a lot of hardships over the course of Gone with the Wind, but don’t expect to feel all that sorry for him. Weak and indecisive, Ashley is barely able to cope with the realities of post-Civil War life and never stops being hopelessly impractical. Most famously (or infamously, if you prefer), he claims to return Scarlett O’Hara’s love for him but marries his cousin Melanie to fulfill his family’s expectations. He then spends the next twelve years being emotionally unfaithful to Melanie and leading Scarlett on about his feelings for her. What Scarlett ever saw in Ashley Wilkes, and why she obsessed over him for so many years, I will never, ever understand.

Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby

I guess since Daisy Buchanan is meant to symbolize the American Dream’s failure to bring happiness to those who seek it, she was bound to be an annoying character. Still, when I read about the way she toys with Jay Gatbsy’s feelings and refuses to do anything the least bit unpleasant (from attending a funeral to paying attention to her own child), I wish I could reach through the pages and smack her in the face. There is more to life than fancy clothes, fancy houses, and fancy parties, but Daisy is too shallow and too lazy to look for any of it.

Percy Weasley, Harry Potter series

Uptight and arrogant, Percy Weasley is basically that know-it-all kid who made everyone else in the classroom roll their eyes all through their school years. After graduating from Hogwarts, he becomes so loyal to his new employer, the Ministry of Magic, that he severs ties with his own family when his father disagrees with the Ministry over the issue of Voldemort’s return. Despite this, he continues trying to boss his brothers around from afar. Although Percy eventually makes amends and reunites with his family, his love of authority and overestimation of his own intelligence will always make him one of the more irritating characters in the Harry Potter universe.

Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

If Holden Caulfield were a real person, I would go out of my way to avoid him. While I understand that a lot of readers identify with Holden’s teenage angst, it troubles me that so many make him into their literary hero. He is a superficial hypocrite who judges everyone he meets and accuses them of being “phonies” without ever really getting to know any of them. I’m sure Holden’s judgmental nature and perpetual complaining are intended to make some sort of point, but that doesn’t make the character any less annoying. Anyone so unable to accept growing up and so unwilling to change his rude behavior shouldn’t be deemed a role model.

Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, Twilight series

Once I realized how shallow and abusive this blockbuster paranormal romance really was, I decided not to finish the series and stopped recommending it to people. Both characters lack personality, and their relationship seems to be based largely on Bella thinking Edward is gorgeous and Edward liking the way Bella smells. What is far more annoying, though, is that Bella gives up her individuality and her friendships in order to be with Edward, and her entire happiness revolves around him. Edward, meanwhile, is a controlling boyfriend whose treatment of Bella is stalker-like and emotionally abusive. It’s hard not to think that readers only let him get away with it because he’s described as being so good-looking. In my mind, this series is not a great love story, but a four-book public service announcement for the kind of relationship young people should learn to avoid.

Linton Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights

There are plenty of disturbing characters in Wuthering Heights (to this day, I’m not sure if I love the book because of these characters or in spite of them).  However, Linton Heathcliff, the son of Heathcliff and Isabella, outdoes everyone else in this novel when it comes to being downright annoying. Linton is a selfish, perpetually whiny young man so weak that he allows himself to be manipulated into marriage to Cathy Linton. He then proceeds to treat Cathy terribly, even though she (inexplicably) loves him. Linton is just as full of hatred as his infamous father, but isn’t nearly as interesting to analyze. For a literary character, that is simply unforgivable.

Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, The Scarlet Letter

Fool that I was, I kept hoping Reverend Dimmesdale would own up to his affair with Hester Prynne and accept Pearl as his daughter. Instead, he privately tortures and makes himself ill over his guilt, forcing Hester to face the scorn of the Puritan community alone and destroying any chance at happiness either of them might have had away from Boston. As is often the case in classic literature, Dimmesdale has to be annoying and a disappointment; otherwise, there would be no point to the story. Nevertheless, his failure to take responsibility for his actions is downright infuriating.

Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca

Mrs. Danvers is the housekeeper at Manderley, home of Maxim de Winter, and without a doubt the scariest entry on this list. She remains devoted to the late Rebecca de Winter and is determined to make the second Mrs. de Winter’s life a living hell. She becomes angry at any change Mrs. de Winter attempts to make to the house and does everything she can to ruin her employer’s new marriage. Mrs. Danvers’ obsessive loyalty to Rebecca’s memory is creepy enough, but when unsettling secrets begin to emerge about Rebecca, it becomes even more disturbing. I am not sure whether it’s better to think that Mrs. Danvers was fooled into loving Rebecca or if she admired her mistress because of her true nature, but either way, her rude, malicious behavior toward others deserves a swift slap in the face.

Lucy Snowe, Villette

Charlotte Brontë’s Villette is a brilliant, though not enjoyable, character study of a rather unlikeable character. Lucy Snowe is intelligent, but she is also repressed and narrow-minded. She refuses the reader access to her innermost feelings and showing contempt for anything that does not fit her worldview—the most prominent example being her disgust for Roman Catholicism and insistence that Protestantism is the only right way to God.  Again, considering the themes of the novel, Lucy is not really meant to be likeable, but her self-righteousness and secretive nature made it impossible to sympathize with her at all.

Is there anyone I missed? Do you disagree with my choices? Sound off in the comments or at @AnnasBookCorner on Twitter!

 

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