This post is a homage to literary antagonists who I believe to be interesting, well written, and in general, antagonists I love to hate.
Here are my top five antagonists from both children and adult fiction:
1. Annie Wilkes (Misery by Stephen King)
In my opinion the best female antagonist ever created. Bravo Stephen King.
Annie’s erratic behaviour and belief that she is acting under God’s instruction makes her a terrifying female antagonist. Her moods swing from ‘number one fan’ to enraged psychopath at the drop of her hat, but it’s the backstory King created for Annie that makes her truly formidable and has the reader concerned for Paul Sheldon’s life. Annie has been killing since age eleven and she doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
2. Voldermort (Harry Potter by JK Rowling)
Or should we call him Wizard Hitler?
Not only is he a scary, half human creature who cannot be easily killed, Voldermort is an antagonist with strong supremacy ideologies. I call him Wizard Hitler for a reason, and perhaps that’s why he is pretty terrifying. We all know what men like him are capable of.
Rowling has given Voldemort a compelling, believable backstory, and what is more scary than an antagonist whose name cannot even be uttered without having the other characters pooping their pants. ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ / ‘You Know Who’ – brilliant!
3. The Trunchbull (Matilda by Roald Dahl)
The scariest antagonist I read as a child.
The majority of our childhood is spent at school, hence why I found Dahl’s child-hating, bullying headmistress a character of wonder and fear. Dahl plays on the fears of children (and their over zealous imaginations) to create a truly frightening antagonist whose duty of care over her pupils is to swing them by their hair and lock them in ‘The Chokey’.
4. Mrs Danvers (Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier)
The creepy old lady.
I would describe Mrs Danvers as the living antagonist in the novel. It is clear that the memory of Rebecca is the main antagonist for the new Mrs De Winter, but Mrs Danvers is set to avenge Rebecca’s death. Mrs Danvers’ witchy, deathly features are matched to her personality. That chapter where she is trying to coax Mrs De Winter to jump out of a window is simply chilling.
5. Hannibal Lecter (Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs & Hannibal by Thomas Harris)
“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”
Hannibal is intriguing as an antagonist. His intelligence and poise is unnerving, especially when you know him to be a perverse, serial killer and cannibal. Not only that, he justifies his crimes by saying he only kills those who deserve it and who insult his sensibilities. A charismatic, well spoken killer is pure scariness.
Which antagonists do you love to hate and why?