12 Evil Fictional Characters

This is inspired by this list: 50 Greatest Villains in Literature. Since I don’t agree with some of their choices, this list was born. Here are the twelve notable flagrant omission on the Telegraph’s list:

1. Uriah Heep

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One of the more vivid and polarizing characters in Dickens’ David Copperfield, obsequious, greedy and insincere Uriah Heep was physically modeled upon Hans Christian Anderson. Cloyingly humane and humble, Mr. Heep works as Wickfield’s law clerk, teaches himself law at night, and by blackmailing Mr. Wickfield, gains control over his business eventually. However, his biggest ambition is to marry Agnes, Wickfield’s daughter, and to obtain her fortune. Like most of Dicken’s villians, greed is his main motivation. Eventually unmasked by Mr. Micawber, he ends up in a prison, where he tries to put forward himself as a model prisoner. [Above: Roland Young as Uriah Heep and Freddie Bartholomew as the child David Copperfield in the 1937 film]

2. Injun Joe

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In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the villain of the piece was Injun Joe, someone with whom the reader cannot identify or sympathize at all. The saddest part of Injun Joe’s depiction in the novel is that he was cast as a relic of a bygone era, an era when vengeful American Indians still roam the prairies. His evil nature was depicted as natural among the Indians, while he displays the culture of violence attributed to the Native Americans: “When you get revenge on a woman you don’t kill her–bosh! you go for her looks. You slit her nostrils–you notch her ears, like a sow’s!” When Judge Thatcher closes the mouth of the cave to fatally asphyxiate Injun Joe, it is as if he metaphorically ended a chapter of American history. 

3. Fu Manchu

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Envisioned during the Yellow Peril era, Dr. Fu Manchu (created by Sax Rohmer) encompasses all signs of an evil genius: height, gauntness, feline-agility, a Satanic face, high intellect and even mind-reading abilities. However, his signature mustache, only for which he is now known, didn’t appeared in any of the novels–it was a creation of the movie industry. He uses arcane methods (he disdains guns or explosives) ranging from dacoits and Thuggees to exotic animals, plants and chemicals for world-domination, and the restoration of the Imperial China. Although he was virtually un-defeatable because of his strength and life-extending elixir, his plans are thwarted and the society is saved by the diligent efforts of Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie, the Holmes and Watson of the series. [Above, he is played by Christopher Lee]

4. Dr. Nikola

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A master of disguise and a mesmerist like Dr. Fu Manchu, Dr. Antonio Nikola (created by Guy Boothby) is another of those evil geniuses who populated Victorian, Gothic and Pulp fiction. Handsome yet puritanical, Nikola is always accompanied by a cat. His goal in life has also been the hunt for immortality, which, he believed, could be obtained from a mysterious sect of Tibetan monks. To aid him in this quest, he used many people whose loved ones they had a hold over (through blackmail or kidnapping) and various mutants he created through his own mad research. Nikola was hunted by Hatteras, a Mongolian assassin missing half of one ear before he finally  a fatal victim of his final experiment. 

5. Napoleon the Pig

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Based on Stalin, Orwell’s hero pig in Animal Farm is also an allegorical figure of all dictators who have ever walked on this world. A common farm pig, Napoleon fights to free the Manor Farm from human control, but eventually becomes the tyrant of Animal Farm. Although his villainous activities (drinking milk the animals had gathered, taking others’ puppies for himself, teaching animals to use firearms, taking advantage of his comrade Snowball, historical revisionism) may seen trivial when compared to those of others on the list, Napoleon stands as a humiliating testament to human gullibility and shortcomings even outside the confines of the book. 

6. Cardinal Richelieu and Milady de Winter

In Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, Cardinal Richelieu attempts to undermine Queen Anne (mother of Louis XIV) who was having an affair with an Englishman. However, Richelieu is action out of his own lust for power. The cardinal employed Milady de Winter–a woman with an evil (albeit tragic) past–as his chief secret agent to discredit the Queen and the English. The Cardinal and Milady plot to kill the English general (and the Queen’s lover) Buckingham. Although she was arrested, she seduces her jailer and asks him to assassinate Buckingham. Although both battled the musketeers, Richelieu and Milady de Winter both respected them, especially d’Artagnan. Yet, it didn’t stop Milday from murdering d’Artagnan’s lover, Constance. In the emotional last scenes of the novel, she was beheaded, but the ghost of Milady came back to haunt the musketeers in the sequel Twenty Years After with her son, Mordaunt. 

7. Lady Macbeth 

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A mother. An antimother. A witch. A femme fatale. Lady Macbeth is one of the most marginalized and discussed figures in the literature. Starting from the point when she receives a letter from her husband saying three witches have prophecized his future as King, she plotted a regicide to the last detail. A real mastermind behind Macbeth (who is merely an instrument), she convinces to him that he first broached the matter and belittles his courage and manhood to coerce him into killing King Duncan. In her last appearance, she sleepwalks in a powerful and profound scene where she is tormented by horrific recollections of her past. She dies off-stage, with suicide being suggested as its cause. [Above, Lady Macbeth, by George Cattermole]

8. Elmer Gantry 

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In Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 satire, Elmer Gantry, the eponymous hero is “a young, narcissistic, womanizing college athlete who, upon realizing the power, prestige, and easy money that being a Christian fundamentalist evangelist can bring, pursues his “religious” ambitions with relish, contributing to the downfall, even death, of key people around him as the years pass. Gantry continues to womanize, is often exposed as a fraud, and frequently faces a complete downfall, yet he is never fully discredited and always manages to emerge triumphant and reaching ever greater heights of social standing”, wikipedia quote succinctly. Although denounced by various religious groups, Elmer Gantry and Lewis were proven to be correct by a bizarre life-imitating-art events in the 70s and the 80s, when an array of Christian evangelists becomes entrapped in sex scandals.  [Burt Lancester played Elmer Gantry above]

9. The Queen of Hearts

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“The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said,” wrote Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in the Wonderland. Foul-mouthed, foul-tempered, blind fury, the Queen of Hearts is the ruler and tyrant of all the lands in the story. Although she is not the villain of the storybook, all creatures in Wonderland fear the Queen, and her tyrannical tendencies (sentence before verdict!) makes her a proud entrant of this list. [Above, two Queens of Hearts: Carroll’s characterization changed the loveliest card in the playing deck into a menacing threat by the time Mrs. Iselin arrives in The Manchurian Candidate.] 

10. Sunday

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In G.K.Chesterton’s surreal novel, The Man Who Was Thursday, a poet Gabriel Syme is recruited by the Scotland Yard to be part of a secret anti-anarchist taskforce. Syme is later elected as the local representative to the worldwide Central Council of Anarchists, which consists of seven men, each using the name of a day of the week as a code name. Syme becomes ‘Thursday’, but he also discovers that five of the other six members are also undercover detectives. They are fighting each other and not real anarchists, in a cleverly concocted plan by the colossal evil genius Sunday. In a dizzying and surreal chase scene (which involves a cab, an elephant and a hot-air ballon), the six chases disturbing, whimsical and almost inhumanely big Sunday, the man who calls himself “The Peace of God”. The Council of Days may not just be a dream–but it sure is a surreal nightmare.

11. Madam Sara 

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Madam Sara in The Sorceress of the Strand (1903) created by L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace is on this list because she defies the most basic rule of detective fiction: good triumphs over evil, and the detective always captures the criminal. Madame Sara is a versatile and cunning criminal whose machinations thwart the attempts of sleuths Dixon Druce and Eric Vandeleur to bring her to justice for “blackmail, murder, and other crimes presumably too fiendish for the texts to explicate fully”. Female and foreign (she is half-Indian and half-Italian), she may not be a PC arch-villain, but as Ellery Queen put it, she “made [traditional] rogues like Colonel Clay and Raffles look like sissies.” 

12. Big Brother

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It was not even a match let alone an even match. The nemesis in George Orwell’s 1984 is this enigmatic entity, the invisible dictator of Oceania, but it wasn’t even clear whether he exists or he is merely a propaganda tool created by the ruling elite of the Party. In Orwellian society, everyone under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens, a fact that is constantly being reminded by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you”. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith finally succumbed to the “love” (the most awful euphemism if there is one) to Big Brother, who apparently demands sacrifices as if he were an Aztec god. Unlike many villains in other novels, Big Brother wasn’t defeated in the book. People like Alan Moore in V for Vendatta tried to show the collapse of such an Orwellian society, but in fact, it took a society to overcome this omniscient, omnipresent entity. 

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Javert

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Inspector Javert who hunts down the protagonist of the novel, Les Misérables (written by Victor Hugo), Jean Valjean, is frequently voted as a villain although he isn’t one in the book. A devotee of the Law, he closely pursues Valjean, but when he finally sees Valjean’s brave and kind acts, he has an epiphany: Javert can be justified neither in letting Valjean go nor in arresting him. Faced with a choice between the Law and his morals–a conundrum that imploded his sanity–Javert drowns himself in the river Seine.

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