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The Coolest Characters From Literature

Culture August 9, 2017 By Hugo

Books- Don't you just love them? If they're not transporting us into other worlds and leaving us drooling from their gorgeous prose, they're moving us with vivid character descriptions and dialogue which brings them to life.

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Yes, a novel's protagonist can make or break a book because readers want to be able to get into the minds of the character and to do so the character needs to stand out and be well-written which is why we at Lifehack Lane have decided to profile 10 literary characters that are beloved the world over and explain why.

1. Atticus Finch- To Kill A Mockingbird

By most definitions, Atticus Finch isn't your average stud. He doesn't have elongated hair and a sun-dappled torso that would shame Chris Hemsworth. He probably wouldn't be able to charm the pants off you either, but does that matter when you happen to be fighting against racial injustices that have been endemic in not just your hometown but country for centuries? You're damn right it doesn't.

Atticus Finch is a certified boss and top-dog lawyer who teaches us, as well as his children, that while one's propensity to judge is innate in us all, we should never allow such judgments to cloud our opinions on others if they are not based on sound reason. He's a beautiful human being and one which- even to this day- the world is still in short supply of. 

2. Hank Chinaski- Women

Described by Time magazine as the "laureate of American lowlife", Charles Bukowski's autobiographical novels based on the life of fictional character Hank Chinaski divide literary scholars and readers to this day, with some believing his nihilistic, simple-to-read prose is Whitman-esque and an ode to the forgotten blue-collar workers post-WWII while others simply deem his work as garbage. 

Whatever your opinion, there's no denying that Bukowski was a welcome addition to a literary world awash with underlying snobbery, and his hedonistic novels, such as Post Office, Factotum and Women are funny, insightful and unpretentious reads that paint a character adept at kicking ass and doing as he pleases. 

3. Dean Moriarty- On The Road

On The Road has almost become synonymous with the word wanderlust because it is essentially a story dedicated to the experiences that come from being young and on the road, and never has a novel managed to capture that sheer elation that comes from such an experience as Jack Kerouac's famed autobiographical novel.

Changing his name to the fictional character Dean Moriarty, Kerouac describes a young writer desperate for experiences and ideas and aims to find them via the medium of travel. Though the novel can often seem like it's going nowhere, Moriarty's character is a wise dude, with lines like “A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world" making us want to run away with him ourselves and absorb his poetic genius.

4. Holly Golightly- Breakfast at Tiffany's 

We've all come across a woman like Holly Golightly, and Truman Capote knew that which was why he penned a character as alluring, admired and incredibly complex as Holly- someone every man wants to marry but likely never will. 

But that's one of the best things about Capote's literary creation. She's feisty, ambitious, independent, and though slightly skewered in her morals, she wants to forge a better life for herself at a time when women were still perceived to be beautiful objects and little else.

5. Don Quixote- Don Quixote

If you ever have the time to read Cervantes near-1000 page masterpiece Don Quixote, we highly recommended it, if not for the funny tales then for the man himself: a literary knight blinded by his own delusions of grandeur.

Yes, he may be an idiot at the best of times, despite sage counsel from his loyal chaperone Sancho telling him that he is crazy, but crazy is also good and Don Quixote lives life to the edge and has a child-like imagination that allows him to believe a set of windmills are charging knights.

6. Holden Caulfield- Catcher in the Rye

Is there any teenage protagonist cooler than Holden Caulfield? Probably not, because despite various YA authors attempting to write their way to the next best thing, they just don't come close to Salinger's honest account of the teenage experience.

The character is realistic and his anxieties about not just growing up but life, in general, leave us all asking ourselves the same questions about our existence- just without wearing an oversized red hat.

7. Jay Gatsby- The Great Gatsby

To many, Jay Gatsby was the anthesis of the American Dream, and he dressed with a swagger and ease that would make even the most fashion-conscious green with envy, with signature gold ties, and pink suits serving as a representation of the character's fascinating, though irrevocably complex mind.

What we love most about Jay, however, is his sheer want to be loved. His wealth was acquired, we learn later in the novel, to impress the woman of his dreams, and to fulfil her every fantasy when she was his all along. He's an excellent character who seemingly has it all, but in the end, we realise that having it all is nothing without love, and you almost find the character even more compelling when Nick Caraway finally finds this out.

8. Midori Kobayashi- Norweigan Wood

Haruki Murakami's greatest and best-selling novel Norweigan Wood is a tour de force in coming of age storytelling and one of its main characters, the love interest of the protagonist, Toru Watanabe, is equally as brilliant. Gregarious, beautiful, funny, honest. Midori is the cool girlfriend we've all had or at least have known about through other friends' partners.

Proving soothing company following his best friend's suicide, who happened to be dating Midori before he died, Toru's want for answers and sound solace take him on a quest for existential discovery we all go through at one point in our lives, though few of us are lucky to be aided by the mind of someone as wise and hip as Midori.

9. Patrick Bateman- American Psycho

Let's admit it: Bret Easton Ellis' nightmarish imagining of a psychopathic yuppie in his famed book American Psycho is someone we couldn't help but find disturbingly cool, and when he came to life thanks to the talented Christian Bale, many people of both sexes found themselves quite liking the guy.

He's handsome, charismatic (albeit in a creepy way) and has an 80's record collection that even the most ardent of music aficionados would appreciate (Huey Lewis and the News never gets old). But there's only one problem: he's also a disgusting human being who murders women, children, animals, homeless people, prostitutes and anything with a pulse. 

However, he does have amazing hair and a neat apartment in the city. Best of all? He might not even be a serial killer.  He could just be like many other people on this earth: A fantasist. Whatever he is, readers and movie-goers were probably left wondering why an Earth they could still relate to Bateman's narcissistical traits. 

10. Stoner- Stoner

When young farmhand William Stoner leave his humble beginnings and embarks on a degree in English literature at the local university you'd be forgiven for thinking John Williams' 1965 campus novel, much like the protagonist, would be nothing more than the dull words of an academic's ramblings. But Stoner is anything but.

Beautifully written without relying on a hint of superfluous language, Stoner hits us with the hard-hitting truth that life can often be a perpetual slog, devoid of much joy and instead plagued with disappointment and mundanity. Indeed, there is nothing spectacular about Stoner's life other than his brilliant mind; and that isn't a bad thing, it's just the reality of most people's lives, and we thank Stoner for schooling us with such a simple, yet poignant message.


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