What makes a book character so endearing?

A book is so much more than myriad pages bound together with an attractive cover. Okay, so you knew that! In the same vein, characters in books are so much more than everyday people. I know you knew that too! But what makes a particular character so endearing to a particular person?

There is no set answer to this one. But in my mind, the issue boils down to two particular aspects: Identification and Fascination. When you come across a character that has shades of your own personality, your own attitudes to life, you tend to be drawn inexorably to them. Similarly if a character compels you to see life through a new perspective, if they hold you in their thrall, make you wish you could be more like them, they wield a magical power over you, bringing your senses alive. Implicit in all this is the writer’s ability to make their characters real, imbuing them with depth, meaning and feeling, making their souls sing to you as you skim the pages.

Purely personally speaking, a delightful mix of identification and fascination is Bathsheba from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Maddening Crowd. The funny part of is that I didn’t enjoy this book all that much. Perhaps because it was in our syllabus at school! But Bathsheba! She has remained a revelation to me. Even when I was 16, I could see shades of my emergent personality in her character, her mien, her approach to the mundane, the innate strength of her spirit.

And as I grew older, her fallibility, foolhardiness and utter lack of judgement about people also found echo in my life! Bathsheba is a character that I can fully comprehend, identify with, but as a woman, the author spins a mental image of her that fills one with a sort of wonder. Like I said earlier, I’m not a huge Hardy fan, but I thank him for letting me get to know Bathsheba! And what of my other favourites? There are many…Howard Roark from The Fountainhead, Scarlett O’ Hara from Gone with the Wind, Jenny Cavilleri from Love Story, Karna from the Mahabharata. And here’s one more: Asterix, the indomitable Gaul.

About the Author: This is a guest post by Sandhya. Sandhya is an alumnus of the Manipal Institute of Jewellery Management, Manipal.

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