I’m really excited to read Julia Gray’s debut The Otherlife, published by Andersen Press, so it’s fabulous to have her on the site today talking about her favourite literary antiheroes!
There is nothing I love more than a morally ambiguous narrator, or a main character for whom mischief is more compelling than manners. It probably has something to do with the fact that I was an exceptionally well-behaved child – reading about the exploits of those who were unafraid to be bad sometimes was a kind of diverting escapism. The ‘sometimes’ is key: antiheroes are not villains. They are not straightforwardly evil. Perhaps they plan to be good, until something distracts them. Perhaps it is just that the line between right and wrong is harder for them to perceive. Or perhaps they just choose to ignore it. In creating my character Hobie Duvalle for The Otherlife I thought about many different antiheroes from books that I enjoy. Here are five of my favourites.
William Brown from Just William by Richmal Crompton
Richmal Crompton’s endearing schoolboy, William Brown, was probably the first antihero I encountered, via the fantastic audiobooks narrated by Martin Jarvis. Apart from his trusty Outlaws – Ginger, Henry and Douglas – William generally finds himself at odds with the expectations of society. His dull siblings and placid parents are perplexed by his constant skirmishes and squabbles; William, meanwhile, often adopts a tone of righteous indignation, forever convinced that his actions, no matter how outlandish, are justified.
Calvin from ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ by Bill Watterso
A comic-strip creation of unparalleled genius. Calvin is a 6-year old boy in some unnamed suburb of America; Hobbes is his stuffed tiger, who is brought to life by Calvin’s rich imagination. Rejecting his father’s attempts at ‘character-building’ activities such as camping in the wilderness, Calvin prefers to eat Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs and watch television, and make mischief of various kinds. He engages in a battle of wills with Miss Wormwood, his schoolteacher, and undermines the authority of his hapless babysitter Rosalyn. I especially like his love-hate relationship with Susie Derkins, a girl in his class. There’s a real humanity, as well as hilarity, in the ‘Calvin’ books, and they stand up to years of affectionate rereading.
Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Unquestionably, Tom Ripley is my favourite antihero of all time. I’ve read the ‘Ripliad’ many times – ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’, ‘Ripley’s Game’, ‘Ripley Under Ground’, ‘Ripley Under Water’ and ‘The Boy Who Followed Ripley’, and it is my fervent hope that someone someday will discover an unpublished addition to this magnificent set of books. Highsmith’s great achievement – apart from the tightness of the plot-lines, the evocative European settings, the moments of dry humour – is to keep the reader on Tom’s side through his many exploits,