Welcome to our newest series: Character Lists! Each month one of our editors will explore the literary characters that have had an impact on them, good or bad, humorous or heartbreaking. We kick off with Kate Lomas Glendenning’s list, so read on!
A Character List by Kate Lomas Glendenning
I shall never forget some literary characters, but not all for good reasons. My character list contains both the sweet-minded and the vile-minded, the humorous and the tragic, the free-spirited and the guarded. Which characters are these? Well…
Ort Flack, that eye, the sky, by Tim Winton
My love for Ort Flack is not based on our common residence of Perth but his beautiful outlook on life. Whilst some might label Ort as “away with the fairies”, through Ort’s narrative voice you discover the beauty in the barren landscape of Western Australia. Ort is observant but limited in understanding his surroundings. Like a child telling an adult a story, you must analyse his observations to determine what is occurring. I love the simplicity of his speech, yet the complexity of the underlining issues he is unable to communicate to those around him. Like Ort, you must watch with observant eyes as the lives of those around him unravel.
Embodying quote: “I don’t get some things…. Why Dad’s crook. Why Grammar is so old and inside herself. Why he’s here, and why he baths Dad and talks funny and chucks a wobbly in the bush so we have to look after another one.”
Roscuro, The Tale of Desperaux, by Kate DiCamillo
I love the complexity of DiCamillo’s character Roscuro, a rat who is ostracised by his own kind and rejected by all others. Whilst Roscuro initially acted as the villain in the novel, the heartbreaking conclusion to his story of still not finding where he belongs makes him a tragic character. What I find memorable about Roscuro is that he found he did not belong anywhere.
Embodying quote: “But alas, he never really belonged in either place: the sad fate, I am afraid, of those whose hearts break and then mend in crooked ways.”
Dolly, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, by Julia Strachey
The main reason Dolly is on this list is because she really got under my skin. She’s a beautiful young bride about to marry someone she doesn’t know awfully well, and a lot of secrets are hanging around her. I love the mystery built around Dolly’s character since her inner thoughts are never revealed and her actions seem like complete contradictions. She says she wants to get married but ruins her wedding shoes the night before and drinks like a fish before her wedding, thus spilling alcohol all over her dress. Plus, she invited Joseph, a former flame, who spends the entire day attempting to talk to Dolly. What I found truly memorable about Dolly was her final conversation with Joseph, as you realise at the same time as him that any feelings he once had for her were for someone who no longer exists.
Embodying quote: “But, anyway, why all the fuss, good gracious me! You don’t want to marry me yourself! You are not in love with me.”
Content warning for next point: drug use, death
Schumann, Candy, by Luke Davies
Schumann is not one of the main characters in Davies’ novel but he was a memorable one for me. Not much of Schumann’s quirks or traits come to my mind, but the description of his death scene remains clear. What was tragic about Schumann was he died a junkie’s death, and thus is only remembered for that in his family. However, Davies manages to find grace within writing the discovery of Schumann’s body to not make it tragic but rather beautiful. The imagery of the cold frost surrounding the taxi Schumann drives with him slumped over inside and only discovered several hours later by police is not only gripping but hauntingly beautiful.
Embodying quote: “He hadn’t even managed to untie the tourniquet. I imagine this means that the dope was excellent, so I imagine, and good luck to him too, that Schumann died happy.”
Content warning for next point: sexual assault, rape
David Lurie, Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee
Similar to Nabokov’s protagonist Humbert Humbert, Coetzee’s David Lurie possesses the qualities of a vile protagonist. As an educated man of literature, Lurie knows how to string together a compelling sentence to awe those around him. Lurie is silver-tongued and without shame as he pays and forces himself upon women at the beginning of the novel. However, by the end of the novel I could not help but feel compassion for Lurie – not because of his little attempts to atone for his actions, or compassion for him over his own daughter’s rape at the hands of strangers – but because of his compassion towards a dog he helps euthanize at a clinic. His moral progress is arguable, but his romantic diction describing his abusive acts is uncomfortable enough to remain with me long after I completed the novel.
Embodying quote: “Not rape, not quite that, but undesired nevertheless, undesired to the core. As though she had decided to go slack, die within herself for the duration, like a rabbit when the jaws of the fox close on its neck.”