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Old 12-02-2010, 08:21 AM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
5,305 posts, read 6,540,034 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SandyCo View Post
I think we all liked Scarlett O'Hara because she was a survivor. No matter what life threw at her, she pushed through it. She was completely unprepared for the devastation of the Civil War, but she rose to the occasion. Such strength is admirable, even if she was also vain, selfish, and spoiled (at the beginning of the book, anyway).
I never read Gone With the Wind but "Forever Amber" is often compared to it. The main character is also vain and selfish, not to mention vindictive and greedy. But she was also a survivor, in part because she adopted these negative attributes. She was a seriously flawed but very interesting character who lived through an interesting period of history and that's what made me like her. For me, I have to like the main character to enjoy the book but that doesn't mean the main character has to be a "hero" or "heroine".
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Old 12-02-2010, 09:15 AM
 
7,569 posts, read 7,970,424 times
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Lots of thoughtful and interesting responses.

I was thinking more about this last night and for me, it all goes to the quality of the writing. If the character appears to be a flesh and blood human with emotions and reactions that resonate with me, then I tend to think it's a good book even if I don't like the character very much. But as an earlier poster said, if the character undergoes a "personality transplant," or doesn't act like a real person, it's frustrating to read.

In the reviews I referred to in my OP, posters were vehemently arguing about what the main character should have done and why she had acted the way she had. Posters who did not approve of how she had handled the situation of her daughter's relationship with the teacher gave the book a low rating. I didn't post, but I wanted to say that if the characters seem so real that you're discussing their morality and motivations as if they were your neighbors, surely that's an indication that the writing is excellent.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to think about it and post.
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Old 12-02-2010, 01:31 PM
 
Location: Colorado
4,267 posts, read 7,289,844 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark S. View Post
Depends.

I've never been able to finish the Thomas Covenant books simply because the main character is so unlikeable and unsympathetic. It spoils the story. There's just nothing about him that makes me want him to win.

But then take a book like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, where the characters are certainly far from perfect and sometimes do terrible things. Yet I never once stopped liking them. I wanted them to win. No matter how many mistakes they made, I was still rooting for them.
That's funny - I've always loved the Covenant chronicles because he is so obviously damaged and adopts this hostile persona to push people away. I kind of empathise with that. BUT I recently attempted to read a book where there was a host of characters that I either couldn't stand or simply didn't care about and was therefore unable to finish it. I guess even unpleasant characters can be interesting and intriguing if we are able to make an emotional connection with them.

I find it interesting that people would condemn a fictional character's behaviour and choices as though they were a real person. I remember a literature teacher telling us that what drives a story is conflict. How utterly boring would a book be if all the characters did everything you would do and there was no conflict at all?
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Old 12-03-2010, 11:43 AM
 
Location: Utah
1,453 posts, read 2,414,335 times
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Quote:
I was reading some reviews of the books and was surprised to see that several people who did not like the books expressed displeasure not at the writing or the stories, but at the behavior of the main characters.
This is what ANNOYS me so much about one of my book clubs!! Even if something is beautifully written, several of them will dismiss the entire thing because of a charachter or situation they don't like!!

Ex:

The Poisonwood Bible. Half won't even read it because of the title, and those who did say they don't like that the little girl dies & that they don't ever get to hear the father's side of the story when you hear every other charachter's perspective.

The Good Earth. She kills a baby. Never mind that they are starving. That is ALL they could talk about.
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Old 12-03-2010, 11:50 AM
 
Location: Toronto
3,339 posts, read 2,927,370 times
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Sure. Not all main characters in stories are meant to be likable or even relatable anyways.

In fact, having a protagonist you can't relate to, or sympathize with at all might make the work even more intriguing or thought-provoking.
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Old 12-03-2010, 03:36 PM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
5,305 posts, read 6,540,034 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lolagranola View Post
This is what ANNOYS me so much about one of my book clubs!! Even if something is beautifully written, several of them will dismiss the entire thing because of a charachter or situation they don't like!!

Ex:

The Poisonwood Bible. Half won't even read it because of the title, and those who did say they don't like that the little girl dies & that they don't ever get to hear the father's side of the story when you hear every other charachter's perspective.

The Good Earth. She kills a baby. Never mind that they are starving. That is ALL they could talk about.
What's wrong with that? It sounds like those are all major parts of the books so I think readers are entitled to take those aspect into consideration when reviewing them. The second example especially sounds like it is intended to get people talking about that particular part. Just because the writing itself is good or even "beautiful" doesn't necessarily means the plot and/or character development is favorable and those are just as important, if not more so, than writing style.

FYI, you may want to consider that you just potentially ruined those two books, especially the second one, for anyone who hasn't read them yet. Next time, I suggest putting in a spoilers warning - in fact, this forum even has a button for it (the one that says "Show/Hide").
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Old 12-03-2010, 08:21 PM
 
Location: Katonah, NY
16,212 posts, read 8,644,156 times
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Like most of the other people here, for me, it depends. I don't mind flawed people - I'm not perfect myself. I guess for me it's just how I feel about the particular flaws of a particular character. I actually love Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. He's flawed but he loves so passionately and violently that I really do love him! However, I hated Madame Bovary. I didn't enjoy the book because I couldn't stand the character. Now, I can appreciate that it was, perhaps, written very well and that the quality of the literature is high - but just because something is well written does not mean it is enjoyable. And why read something if you don't enjoy it - no matter what book it is or who wrote it? I mean, unless you have to for school or book club or something...
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Old 12-04-2010, 07:12 PM
 
Location: Here&There
1,958 posts, read 2,072,294 times
Reputation: 1954
Sure.

Othello, Anna Karenina, Catcher in the Rye, The Brothers Karamazov, One Hundred Years of Solitude (I disliked most of the characters as there wasn't really one main character), Notes from the Underground, Resurrection, The Idiot ... just to name a few.
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Old 12-05-2010, 03:38 AM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
5,305 posts, read 6,540,034 times
Reputation: 6201
Ah, see I hated Catcher in the Rye because I hated Holden. Othello was good because even though the protagonist (Iago) is actually the villain of the story, he is an interesting and well developed character. Holden was just an obnoxious little %*&.
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Old 12-05-2010, 03:58 AM
 
Location: Here&There
1,958 posts, read 2,072,294 times
Reputation: 1954
Quote:
Originally Posted by PA2UK View Post
Ah, see I hated Catcher in the Rye because I hated Holden. Othello was good because even though the protagonist (Iago) is actually the villain of the story, he is an interesting and well developed character. Holden was just an obnoxious little %*&.
Yeah I know many Holden-type people, they suck but they exist so the story was believable for me and that's why I enjoyed it.
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