The 3rd March marks World Book Day 2016; a day normally dedicated to school-children immortalising their favourite literary characters in fancy dress. However, in celebration of the written word, The Edge decided to take a more philosophical approach. While we all had our favourite childhood stories, and they certainly deserve a re-read, some things stay with us effortlessly.
Today, our writers got together to answer the question; which characters have inspired you? Who leapt off the page to impress you with their bravery and kindness? Who made you want to go out on an adventure? And who, still, helps make you a better person?
Edmund Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis)
When discussing characters that you affiliate yourself with or are inspired by, saying the kid who betrayed his whole family for some Turkish Delight probably shouldn’t be first choice. However, I have always found myself to have a connection with Edmund Pevensie, and I think that it’s fair to say that he inspires me. Let’s be real, all of us can connect with the idea of getting jealous and disliking being second fiddle, and we should remember that Edmund is young. He’s a kid; when a kind, beautiful woman offers him love and affection and endless amounts of sweets… well, would you really be able to say no to that?
At the end of the day, Edmund learns from his mistakes, and he becomes a worthy king; in fact not just worthy, he is crowned ‘Edmund the Just’. He grows so much throughout the series, and though he still slips up sometimes, he is conscious of that and strives to change- which for me is an admirable trait in anyone. His growth is more than that of any of his siblings, and that’s because he reflects on his failures, and he responds to them by trying to become more loyal, courageous and trustworthy than he was before. Anybody who is willing to better themselves like that is a hero to me.
Tintin (The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé)
Unlike most children, who grow up with comic strips filled with heroes and villains capable of superhuman feats of strength, my childhood hero was somewhat more every day. The reporter Tintin, from Hergé’s 1930’s comic strips, was everything that I wanted when I grew up. He was smart, adventurous, ever optimistic and incredibly loyal to his friends. His trusty canine companion, Snowy, was my first introduction to sarcasm and witty humour, which appears to have formed much of my character today. Through Tintin I explored the world, from the depths of the sea, all the way to the moon, and learned to always keep my eyes peeled for a good story.
And here I am, over 10 years later, now studying literature with aims of someday writing my own stories. I like to revisit these stories occasionally because some, though not all, of the villains he faces are decidedly ordinary. When he has his wallet stolen, something which could happen to all of us, Tintin continues with his typically optimistic attitude, making the best of every situation; it is this attitude which has helped me throughout the years, as I have dealt with my own every day struggles.
Percy Jackson (Percy Jackson & The Olympians by Rick Riordan)
Rick Riordan’s truly excellent Percy Jackson series arrived in a post-Harry Potter ravaged literary world in which any dabbles into the magical, mythical or fantastical were quickly dismissed as cheap Potter knockoff/cash grabs. But what made Riordan’s series so memorable and different was its fantastic main protagonist, Percy Jackson himself. Percy was a character I could relate to so much; he was a perennial underachiever and he really didn’t know just where he fitted in.
But when the pressure was on, Percy Jackson stepped into the spotlight and saved the day on many an occasion. The character is a true inspiration, a fantastically well-crafted everyman who taught me that, despite our shortcomings, there was a hero in all of us just waiting to be given the opportunity to shine. As Percy grew up, so did I, this meant that I could follow his journey from a troubled, struggling pre-teen into a strong, courageous, inspiring hero.
To me, Percy Jackson preached the message that, although things may get tough, there is always a new day dawning and a better tomorrow to come with it. He inspires bravery, kindness, empathy and true friendship.
Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)
Since it’s World Book Day, I would like to take a moment to remember my most inspirational literary character, among the most famous in history, who is more than worth a few words on this special day. Elizabeth Bennet has always been one of the most inspirational fictional women in my life. Approaching English Literature as a teenager, Elizabeth Bennet was the first character I encountered when I picked up Pride & Prejudice, and I followed her enthusiastically throughout Jane Austen’s story. In fact, she ushered in a blooming passion for Austen.
Even if she did not have an immediate impact on my life, other than being the source of my love for this style and era of book, she inspired me more and more in my way to adulthood and in my perception towards people. She taught me that first impressions are not necessarily the good ones and that every single person deserves a second chance. More importantly, I learned from her not to keep my mind shut to opinions and not to be afraid of rethinking the basis of my perception of thewWorld. Also, she helped me refine my vision of the meaning of love thanks to her romance with Mr. Darcy. I would not be the person I am without Elizabeth Bennet.
Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)
As an alternative – there’s a reason Mr. Darcy is so beloved by pop culture, and if you were to ask me for a specific reason (besides Colin Firth’s wet shirt scene), I think it’s because of how awkward he is. Far from the gallantly infallible heroes you often see in literature of this time period, Darcy is a bit of a social outcast; hesitant and uncomfortable in the social spheres he was born into. As he rather endearingly confesses in the novel, he doesn’t “have the talent which some people possess of conversing easily with those I have never seen before.”
Despite his prejudices, it’s hard not to empathise with Darcy in that respect. I, for one, felt similar sentiments in Freshers’ Week. He truly is a paragon for socially awkward people everywhere and I love him for it.
Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
Atticus Finch is easily my favourite character. I’d even go as far to say he is one of the reasons I’d like to go into law myself. He just seems to embody the word noble. He is willing to challenge an entire town’s racial prejudice and hatred for the black community for the sake of one person. But above all, he is not afraid to allow his children to see the dark side.
Nowadays, kids are far too protected by their parents, they are shown a whitewashed world free from violence, hatred and suffering. And this is wrong. You grow up with a wrong perspective on the world, you think it is a nice place. It isn’t.
As Miss Maudie says to Jem regarding Atticus, ‘Some people in this world are born to do horrible things. Your father’s one of them.’ Atticus resonates with me because he is truly good. He only desires to do the best for someone else. He is a lawyer, but he defends not only Tom Robinson, but morality himself. Gregory Peck also did a great job portraying him and his snazzy suit, too.
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)
World Book Day is definitely one of my favourite days – as someone who prioritised buying a bookcase before most other things after moving into halls, and insisted on bringing most of the books I had at home, I’m still as excited for this day as I was when I was six. And I was really excited when I was six. Mum actually asked this morning who I ‘went as’… I think she forgot I’m 19 and dressing as fictional characters is no longer socially acceptable.
But when I could spend the day at school as my favourite character, as far as I can remember, it was always Hermione Granger. Not least because I had the wand and the big, brown curly hair! I always loved her, ever since I read Harry Potter (or had it read to me every night as a kid… every single night… sorry, mum). Looking at her as an adult, she is the brains of the Golden Trio; a heroine, just as able and achieving as the boys, and someone who prioritises learning and loyalty. But I think that last point was as important to child-Carly-May – I was always the kid who would rather be in the library than braiding hair, and it made me happy to see that in someone else, even though she was fictional.
Hermione doesn’t give a damn about her appearance. Obviously she does as much as anyone should, and she can look conventionally attractive when she chooses to be, but to her it is not as important as learning and books and friends. She’s a brainy ‘know-it-all’. She doesn’t feel the need to fit in. She’s herself, and that’s what has stuck with me since reading Harry Potter.
Of all the great and majestic characters which Tolkien created in his massive Middle Earth, perhaps choosing the humble and home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins is an interesting choice. But from when I read The Hobbit as a little girl, to when I re-read it yearly now, I continue to be inspired as he plucks at my heartstrings.
Bilbo only barely signed up for the adventure which his titular book details. He was largely co-erced by Gandalf and a throng of dwarves into charging off into danger – but he still went. He followed his heart. He abandoned what was safe and comfortable and strode off to save his newfound friends with bravery and cleverness again and again. He put on a stiff upper lip and held it together even through the worst of times.
What’s more, Bilbo was firmly middle aged when he went off on his adventure; though most university students are only in the middle of their quarter-life crises, many among us can empathise with the worry that we aren’t doing enough. That everyone else has got a better handle on this ‘life’ malarkey than we do, and have already gone on to do great things while the world has passed us by. Don’t worry. Bilbo’s got your back. You can still have a mad adventure, even when you’ve prefer a cup of tea and a night in.
Also, if I got a magic ring, I’d definitely use it to passive aggressively avoid people I don’t like.