In this weekly post, I will be choosing three books that best exhibit a certain literary feature, whether it is the best beginnings, endings, or anything in between! If you have suggestions for a ‘My Tuesday Trio’ post I would love to hear from you.
This week I will be choosing my top 3 villains in literature:
- Mrs Danvers in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Synopsis: The heroine of this novel is working as a downtrodden lady’s maid when she is swept off her feet by the charismatic Maxim de Winter. After a swift marriage, he takes her back to his luxurious estate Manderley. However, for Mrs de Winter her new home does not prove to be the idyllic paradise she had hoped for. The haunting presence of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, seems to pervade the Manderley residence and is determined not to leave her alone…
Why Top Three? Mrs Danvers is the epitome of the gothic villain. Some scenes between her and the second Mrs de Winter genuinely sent shivers down my spine! Mysterious and threatening, she is one of the chief contributors to the haunting atmosphere of Rebecca.
- Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Synopsis: Algernon and Jack are two gentlemen who have invented fictional identities that allow them to escape the prudishness of upper-class Victorian life. However, when they both fall in love these dual identities soon lead to hilarious misunderstandings and entanglements that seem to stand in the way of achieving their marital bliss. Comedy of manners, farce, melodrama and satire all combine to make the play an irrepressibly witty mockery of Victorian society.
Why Top Three? Lady Bracknell is a pretty loosely classified villain, but she does try to get in the way of all the budding romances of the play. Her formidable character combined with absurd assertions make her central to the play’s hilarity! On a more serious note, some have argued that Wilde uses her to satirise Victorian anxieties about the changing role of women.
To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. ~ Lady Bracknell
- Merricat in We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Synopsis: Merricat, her sister Constance and Uncle Julian live together isolated from their village by suspicions that still surround the fatal poisoning of four of their family members. This life suits Merricat just fine and she enjoys the comfortable routine of her days with Constance. However, the arrival of a well-meaning relative is set to disrupt the balance of their domestic serenity beyond correction.
Why Top Three? Another intensely gothic tale – I am fascinated by gothic villains! Very rarely is a book written from a villainous perspective, but this is what makes We Have Always Lived in the Castle so uniquely intriguing. The uninhibited access readers get to Merricat’s dark thoughts is disturbing yet addictive.
Cover images courtesy of Goodreads.
Who is your favourite literary villain? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you!