Literary characters who put the ill in villain


30.  Prince John: According to the Robin Hood mythos, Prince John kept the masses in line with egregious taxes and a crooked rule while King Richard fought in the Holy Wars in distant lands.  A shining example of how power corrupts, the longevity of the Robin Hood tales are a testament in part to Prince John’s villainy.

‘By the light of Heaven!’ said Prince John to Hubert, ‘an thou suffer that runagate knave to overcome thee, thou art worthy of the gallows!’

29. Alexander Zalachenko: This former Soviet spy was introduced to readers in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire (Vintage Books, 2010), the second in Larsson’s Millenium series. Zalachenko fled his shady career in Soviet intelligence, defecting in secret to Sweden. Also a racist and abuser of women, Zalachenko carries out his crimes in Sweden with impunity. Because he is deemed of high importance by Sweden’s secret police, they cover for him whenever he is foolish enough to be caught.  And if that weren’t enough to qualify him for the villainy Hall of Infamy, he shoots his own daughter and buries her in his backyard.

He glanced at his daughter’s body. In the beam from his flashlight she looked like a bloody rag doll. He clicked the safety catch on and stuffed the pistol into his jacket pocket and went over to Niedermann, who was standing helpless, tears running from his dirt-filled eyes and blood from his hand and nose.

28.  Junior Rennie: Son of the most powerful man in the town of Chester’s Mill and possibly the town’s first serial killer, Junior is truly wicked.  When we first meet him in the early pages of Stephen King‘s Under the Dome (Scribner, 2009), he kills an ex-girlfriend for the simple reason that he has a headache and her voice is making it worse.  She is not the last to die at his hands.  After the town is encapsulated by a transparent dome, Junior is deputized as part of the Chester’s Mill police force – it helps when dad is the town’s Second Selectman – and he proceeds to abuse his power whenever the opportunity arises (provided his migraines aren’t too overpowering).  It becomes pretty obvious where Junior learned this behavior as the book continues (his father is no bastion of virtue either). Regardless, no sympathy is fostered for Junior. His everyday abhorrent acts, including a twisted temporary relief for his headaches, ensure him a spot in this list.

Then two things happened almost simultaneously.
The first was the woodchuck. It was whole, then it was in two pieces. Both were twitching and bleeding. Barbie stopped, mouth hanging open on the sudden lax hinge of his lower jaw. It was as if an invisible guillotine blade had dropped. And that was when, directly above the severed woodchuck, the little plane exploded.

27.  Patrick Bateman: The titular killer from Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho (Vintage Books, 1991), Bateman is an investment banker by day, killer by night. Bateman’s crimes are as sadistic as they are numerous. He kills, tortures and rapes indiscriminately for three years while living the yuppie lifestyle in Manhattan and wining and dining with the upper crust of New York.

Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do? My pain is constant and sharp and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this—and I have countless times, in just about every act I’ve committed—and coming face-to-face with these truths, there is no catharsis. I gain no deeper knowledge about myself, no new understanding can be extracted from my telling. There has been no reason for me to tell you any of this. This confession has meant nothing….

26.  Alex: In Anthony BurgessA Clockwork Orange (William Heinemann, 1962) we meet Alex, the leader of a gang of droogs in a dystopian future version of England, who leads the youths through the streets of England  on a path of assault, rape, vandalism and burglary.  His only contribution to society is mayhem, anarchy and chaos. When finally he is captured, Alex is sent to prison. Once there he becomes part of an experimental therapy program intended to remove any and all propensity for violence from him. The urge to do violence is so strong, Alex attempts suicide. It seems he is genetically predisposed to violent tendencies.

What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolence.

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